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 But even as Lila finds new purpose for outdated dresses and tries to reunite with her ex, she realizes that sometimes it’s too late for old dreams.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. 

Makin’ Miracles by Lin Stepp

  • Makin' Miracles (Dec30)Title:  Makin’ Miracles
  • Author:   Lin Stepp
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction; Christian
  • Published:  December 30, 2014 – Kensington
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Zola Devon has always been a little different. Half Tahitian, with long black hair and dark eyes, she’s especially distinctive in the mountain town of Gatlinburg. She even stocks her gift shop, Nature’s Corner, with items that reflect her island heritage and tantalize tourists. But it’s her spot-on intuition that truly sets Zola apart. When she gets a hunch about a person, she’s almost always right. And when the surly photographer who owns the gallery next door starts meddling in her business, she can only hope that, for once, her instincts are wrong.

The one thing Spencer Jackson loves more than his camera is the majestic scenery of the Smoky Mountains. Reeling from his painful past, he’s settled in a cabin in the woods to train his lens on the breathtaking landscape. A woman as uniquely beguiling as Zola could only throw his simple, uncomplicated days into chaos–and force him to lay bare his darkest secrets. But as their lives become unavoidably intertwined, they both may discover the beauty of the truth, and the joy of the unexpected.  (publisher)

My brief take:  This is the second of Lin Stepp’s novels I’ve had a chance to read. I love the Smoky Mountain setting, the characters who seem so genuine, and her themes of people learning to forgive, trust, and love. Pertinent bible references are woven into the story in a relevant and natural way.

I had issues with Spencer. He seemed almost immature in his attitude toward his problems with his family and his willingness to let go of the past. It made him moody and rather annoying. I couldn’t understand why Zola kept seeing him. But she did. I really liked Zola. She had such a wonderful outlook on life and a great sense of who she was. She looked for and found the goodness in people. It was easy to understand why Spencer would be attracted to her.

Makin’ Miracles is a story of drama, mystery, romance and family dynamics. I enjoyed the pace and was satisfied with how Stepp wrapped things up. Recommended to fans of Christian Contemporary Fiction.

The Divorce Diet by Ellen Hawley

  • The Divorce Diet (Dec30)Title:  The Divorce Diet
  • Author:  Ellen Hawley
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  December 30, 2014 – Kensington
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Abigail is sure the only thing standing between her and happiness is the weight she gained along with her beloved new baby. Until she instantly loses 170 pounds of husband.

When Thad declares that “this whole marriage thing” is no longer working, a shell-shocked Abigail takes her infant daughter, Rosie, and moves back to her parents’ house. Floundering, she turns to an imaginary guru and best friend, the author of her new weight-loss book. But surviving heartache, finding a job, and staying sane as a suddenly single new mom isn’t easy, especially on a diet–sorry, life journey.

Make an inventory of your skills, Abigail’s guru instructs. Abigail loves cooking and preparing food–real food, not the fatless, joyless dishes her diet prescribes, or the instant-frozen-artificially flavored fare she finds in her mother’s kitchen. So far, following everyone else’s rules has led to being broke, lonely, and facing a lifetime of poached eggs, faux mayonnaise, and jobs in chain restaurants. What might happen if Abigail followed her own recipe for a good life instead?…

Bitingly funny, wise, and insightful, Ellen Hawley’s fresh new novel is an ode to food and self-discovery for any woman who’s ever walked away from a relationship–or a diet–to find what true satisfaction is all about.  (publisher)

My brief take:  When Abigail takes her baby and moves back home with her parents (after her husband tells her it’s him, not her) she’s already started a diet to lose the pregnancy weight. She soon finds herself on a journey of discovery by having internal conversations with her diet guru – the author of the self-improvement (diet) book.

Abigail reconnects with her roots and realizes how superficial she’d become because of her relationships and marriage. Little by little, she gains compassion and empathy for the people in her life.

I found this novel best read in small bites – a few chapters at a time. There were times when I wanted to give Abigail a shake and say “get over yourself”. I think that’s due to the first person narrative. That issue aside, I enjoyed the novel – and there are recipes at the end :)

Make My Wish Come True by Fiona Harper

  • make my wish come true (Nov3)Title:  Make My Wish Come True
  • Author:  Fiona Harper
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction; Christmas
  • Published:  November 2014 – Harlequin HQN
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Family-oriented Juliet is a Christmas-dinner cook extraordinaire and is trying to keep it together in the wake of her marriage breakdown two Christmases ago, but the cracks are beginning to show.

Her bright and vivacious sister Gemma was always the favorite daughter. Gemma has no qualms about escaping the festive madness and the pressures of her glamorous job by jetting off somewhere warm and leaving Christmas in Juliet’s capable hands.

When Gemma shirks responsibility one too many times and announces she’s off to the Caribbean (again!), Juliet finally snaps. Gemma offers her sister the perfect solutionto swap Christmases. She’ll stay home and cook the turkey (how hard can it be?) and Juliet can fly off into the sun and have a restorative break.

In the midst of all the chaos, there’s Will, Juliet’s dishy neighbor who’s far too nice to float Gemma’s boat and may secretly harbor feelings for her sister; and Marco, the suave Italian in the villa next door who has his own ideas about the best way to help Juliet unwind.

Will the sisters abandon caution and make this a Christmas swap to remember?  (publisher)

My take:  I thoroughly enjoyed Make My Wish Come True. Fiona Harper’s story of two sisters, each thinking her  perspective of their life growing up is singularly correct, will probably resonate with anyone who has a sibling. It certainly did with me!

Yes, there are shades of the 2006 film The Holiday (it’s mentioned by name a time or two) but Make My Wish Come True is it’s own story. By swapping lives for two weeks the sisters are given a chance for some introspection and discovery about the other.

This Christmas story made me laugh, tugged my heart, and even had me reaching for a tissue near the end. Really, what more can one ask for in a Christmas book? Highly recommended.

Farewell to Cedar Key by Terri DuLong

  • Farewell to Cedar Key (Nov25)Title:  Farewell to Cedar Key
  • Series:  Cedar Key #6
  • Author:  Terri DuLong
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  November 2014 – Kensington
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Josie Sullivan adores her Cedar Key home. It’s been the ideal place to raise her daughter, Orli, who’s just turning sixteen. Now that Josie has realized her dream of becoming a registered nurse, she’s been offered the perfect job too–helping Dr. Simon Mancini run his new practice. 

Until the clinic opens, Josie is filling in at Yarning Together, where she launches a series of knitting classes for men. Yet for all the vibrant changes, there are some tangled threads. Josie’s romance-author mother, Shelby, receives a worrying diagnosis. And though Josie has always guarded her independence, her connection to Orli’s father, Grant, seems to be rekindling. Most of all, as Shelby’s college classmates rally around their dear friend, Josie begins to see that “home” is more than a place; it’s the relationships woven into each life, strand by strand…  (publisher)

My take:  Terri DuLong’s Cedar Key series is one of my favorites. I loved going back to the Florida island to see what’s up with all the characters I’ve come to know in the first five books. Farewell to Cedar Key could be my favorite of the series! I think that’s remarkable for a sixth book in a series.

This book features Josie, her daughter Orli and many more series regulars. The point that you never know what life will throw at you from one minute to another is the main theme. With the help and support of family and friends you can get through anything and that’s exactly what the people of Cedar Key prove to each other on an almost daily basis.

If you’re a knitter you’ll love that many of the Cedar Key scenes revolve around the local yarn shop. Terri DuLong also takes us to Boston for Christmas.

I enjoyed every page of this novel and recommend it to fans of the series and good contemporary fiction.

You Were Meant For Me by Yona Zeldis McDonough

  • you were meant for me (Oct7)Title:  You Were Meant For Me
  • Author:  Yona Zeldis McDonough
  • Genre:  Contemporary/Women’s Fiction
  • Published:  October 2014 – NAL Trade
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  What do you do when you have to give up the person you love most?

Thirty-five-year-old Miranda is not an impulsive person. She’s been at Domestic Goddess magazine for eight years, she has great friends, and she’s finally moving on after a breakup. Having a baby isn’t even on her radar—until the day she discovers an abandoned newborn on the platform of a Brooklyn subway station. Rushing the little girl to the closest police station, Miranda hopes and prays she’ll be all right and that a loving family will step forward to take her.

Yet Miranda can’t seem to get the baby off her mind and keeps coming up with excuses to go check on her, until finally a family court judge asks whether she’d like to be the baby’s foster parent—maybe even adopt her. To her own surprise, Miranda jumps at the chance. But nothing could have prepared her for the ecstasy of new-mother love—or the heartbreak she faces when the baby’s father surfaces….  (publisher)

My take:  You Were Meant For Me is a fast-paced novel about love – love of a child, a partner, a parent, good friends. The novel starts out with the probable suicide of the baby’s mother. Lucky for the baby, Miranda discovers her on a subway platform and makes sure the baby is taken to the authorities. Over the next few months Miranda steps forward to foster and then adopt the baby. A local writer interviews Miranda for a newspaper column which starts a chain reaction of events that will upend Miranda’s plans and happiness.

I thought it was an interesting premise and overall I enjoyed the novel. I liked it but had a tough time with almost every adult character’s self-centeredness at one time or another. Even Miranda dropped the ball a time or two. However, the author brought everything together at the end and I felt a bit better about the growth some of the characters experienced. I especially liked the direction Miranda’s life was headed.

This would be a good book to take on vacation. It’s a page turner, has attractive and affluent characters and some romance. I would definitely read more books by the author (this is my first). Included at the end are a Conversation with the Author as well as Discussion Questions.

Cancel the Wedding by Carolyn Dingman

  • cancel the wedding (Aug5)Title:  Cancel the Wedding: A Novel
  • Author:  Carolyn Dingman
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction; Southern
  • Published:  August 2014 – Harper Paperbacks
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  On the surface, Olivia has it all: a high-powered career, a loving family, and a handsome fiancé. She even seems to be coming to terms with her mother Jane’s premature death from cancer. But when Jane’s final wish is revealed, Olivia and her elder sister Georgia are mystified. Their mother rarely spoke of her rural Southern hometown, and never went back to visit—so why does she want them to return to Huntley, Georgia, to scatter her ashes?

Jane’s request offers Olivia a temporary escape from the reality she’s long been denying: she hates her “dream” job, and she’s not really sure she wants to marry her groom-to-be. With her fourteen-year-old niece, Logan, riding shotgun, she heads South on a summer road trip looking for answers about her mother.

As Olivia gets to know the town’s inhabitants, she begins to peel back the secrets of her mother’s early life—truths that force her to finally question her own future. But when Olivia is confronted with a tragedy and finds an opportunity to right a terrible wrong, will it give her the courage to accept her mother’s past—and say yes to her own desire to start over?  (publisher)

My take:  Cancel the Wedding is the story of Olivia Hughes and her search for answers about her mother. Her search takes her to Tillman, Georgia where her mother grew up. It is there that, with the help of her niece and a very helpful local newspaperman, Olivia starts to figure out the mystery of her mother’s early life.

Carolyn Dingman filled her story with charming and eccentric characters. The story was funny at times and emotionally charged at others. Olivia needed to find answers in her own life as well as her mother’s. She knew she wasn’t headed in the right direction where her personal life was concerned so the time away afforded her the space she needed to figure things out. She hadn’t planned on meeting someone new on this quest. Elliot ended up helping her solve the mystery of her mother’s life before she met Olivia’s father. He also helped her see the possibilities in her future. 

The title Cancel the Wedding might make readers think this is a breezy chick lit novel but it is not. It’s the story about a young woman searching for answers from the past so that she can move forward. I enjoyed it very much and can’t wait to see what Carolyn Dingman writes next. Recommended to fans of Southern contemporary fiction.

The House We Grew Up In: A Novel by Lisa Jewell

  • The House We Grew Up In (Aug12)Title:  The House We Grew Up In: A Novel
  • Author:  Lisa Jewell
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  August 2014 – Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Meet the Bird family. They live in a honey-colored house in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village, with rambling, unkempt gardens stretching beyond. Pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and tow-headed twins Rory and Rhys all attend the village school and eat home-cooked meals together every night. Their father is a sweet gangly man named Colin, who still looks like a teenager with floppy hair and owlish, round-framed glasses. Their mother is a beautiful hippy named Lorelei, who exists entirely in the moment. And she makes every moment sparkle in her children’s lives.

Then one Easter weekend, tragedy comes to call. The event is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass as the children become adults, find new relationships, and develop their own separate lives. Soon it seems as though they’ve never been a family at all. But then something happens that calls them back to the house they grew up in—and to what really happened that Easter weekend so many years ago.  (publisher)

My take:  I love reading about families and their issues. This novel is about the Bird family and boy do they have issues!

The Birds live in a lovely home in the Cotswolds and unless you were a close friend you wouldn’t think they had a care in the world. But inside the lovely home it’s a different story. The mother can’t throw anything away and continues to collect stuff – much to everyone’s dismay. As the children grow up and leave home they all have issues that stem back to one terrible Easter when the unthinkable happened.

My favorite character was oldest daughter Megan – probably because I understood her most. She grew up, left home, and lived her life completely opposite her mother’s.  She was determined to be in control and yet handled herself admirably when life didn’t go as planned and dysfunction found its way into her life. I’m not certain how realistic it was but I still enjoyed her part of the novel.

I won’t spoil it by going into the details but I will say that Lisa Jewell wrote a compelling novel that I couldn’t put down. It is by turns heartbreaking, harrowing, yet ultimately hopeful. I enjoyed it very much and recommend it to fans of the author, contemporary fiction and family dramas. I look forward to reading more of Lisa Jewell’s books.

Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof

  • small blessings jacketTitle:  Small Blessings
  • Author:  Martha Woodroof
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  August 2014 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  From debut novelist Martha Woodroof comes an inspiring tale of a small-town college professor, a remarkable new woman at the bookshop, and the ten-year old son he never knew he had. 

Tom Putnam has resigned himself to a quiet and half-fulfilled life. An English professor in a sleepy college town, he spends his days browsing the Shakespeare shelves at the campus bookstore, managing the oddball faculty in his department and caring, alongside his formidable mother-in-law, for his wife Marjory, a fragile shut-in with unrelenting neuroses, a condition exacerbated by her discovery of Tom’s brief and misguided affair with a visiting poetess a decade earlier.

Then, one evening at the bookstore, Tom and Marjory meet Rose Callahan, the shop’s charming new hire, and Marjory invites Rose to their home for dinner, out of the blue, her first social interaction since her breakdown. Tom wonders if it’s a sign that change is on the horizon, a feeling confirmed upon his return home, where he opens a letter from his former paramour, informing him he’d fathered a son who is heading Tom’s way on a train. His mind races at the possibility of having a family after so many years of loneliness. And it becomes clear change is coming whether Tom’s ready or not.

A heartwarming story with a charmingly imperfect cast of characters to cheer for, Small Blessings‘s wonderfully optimistic heart that reminds us that sometimes, when it feels like life has veered irrevocably off track, the track shifts in ways we never can have imagined.  (publisher)

My take:  Small Blessings is filled with quirky characters who seem kind of like some people I know in my life. On the surface you’d think they don’t have a problem in the world. But when you get a glimpse of what’s actually going on in their lives you find they’re like many people who, for various reasons, are just trying to get by one day at a time.

My favorite character was Agnes, Tom’s mother-in-law. She was vibrant and unafraid – at least that’s how she appeared to most people. She reminded me of a character Kathy Bates might play in a movie version – strong yet sensitive in a no nonsense way. She had every right to be bitter because of how life had played out for her but she kept moving forward.

I loved the small twists Martha Woodroof slipped in when I least expected them. The plot would just turn on a dime! That kept me flipping the pages because I had to know what happened next. I was never disappointed. Also, I love it when I laugh out loud while reading – that happened more than a few times while reading Small Blessings.

So, read the synopsis above to get an idea of what the book is about and then grab a copy and read it. I bet you’ll like it! This is one I’ll recommend to my friends.

____

If you enjoy listening to audiobooks check out this sample of Small Blessings:

The Stories We Tell: A Novel by Patti Callahan Henry

  • the stories we tell (Sept4)Title:  The Stories We Tell: A Novel
  • Author:  Patti Callahan Henry
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  June 2014 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Sullivan and Partners

Synopsis:  Eve and Cooper Morrison are Savannah’s power couple. They’re on every artistic board and deeply involved in the community. She owns and operates a letterpress studio specializing in the handmade; he runs a digital magazine featuring all things southern gentlemen. The perfect juxtaposition of the old and the new, Eve and Cooper are the beautiful people. The lucky ones. And they have the wealth and name that comes from being part of an old Georgia family. But things may not be as good as they seem. Eve’s sister, Willa, is staying with the family until she gets “back on her feet.” Their daughter, Gwen, is all adolescent rebellion. And Cooper thinks Eve works too much. Still, the Morrison marriage is strong. After twenty-one years together, Eve and Cooper know each other. They count on each other. They know what to expect. But when Cooper and Willa are involved in a car accident, the questions surrounding the event bring the family close to breaking point. Sifting between the stories—what Cooper says, what Willa remembers, what the evidence indicates—Eve has to find out what really happened. And what she’s going to do about it.  (publisher)

My take:  The Stories We Tell opens with a storm brewing outside Eve Morrison’s window one evening. To her it feels like an omen. Her feeling proves correct when a policeman arrives to take her to a hospital where her husband and sister have been admitted after a car accident. Eve can’t figure out why they would’ve been in the car together. That is just the first of many questions she’ll be seeking answers to.

Eve married Cooper for good reasons (she’d told herself) but now she wonders if they were the right reasons. The last straw is when Cooper blames Willa (Eve’s sister) for the car accident. Eve is certain he is hiding something and wonders if she can trust her husband anymore. On top of that, their seventeen-year-old daughter is acting out big time. It’s all Eve can do just to keep the peace in her own house. What will she do when her questions are answered?

Patti Callahan Henry’s novel is about a marriage and appearances and what happens when appearances aren’t what they seem. It’s about the fallout from fibs and stories and lies.I loved how all the strings of the story were woven together by the end of the novel. I wouldn’t expect to feel any other way about one of Patti Callahan Henry’s books. I’m a fan and recommend The Stories We Tell to fans of the author and Contemporary Southern Fiction.

Butternut Summer by Mary McNear

  • butternut summer (Aug12)Title:  Butternut Summer
  • Series:  The Butternut Lake trilogy #2
  • Author:  Mary McNear
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Published:  August 2014 – William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Every summer on Butternut Lake the tourists arrive, the shops open, and the waves lap its tree-lined shores, just as they have for years. But this season everything changes for one mother and daughter who’ve always called the lake home. . . .

 

Caroline’s life is turned upside down the moment her ex-husband, Jack, strides through the door of her coffee shop. He seems changed—stronger, steadier, and determined to make amends with Caroline and their daughter, Daisy. Is he really different, or is he the same irresistibly charming but irresponsible man he was when he left Butternut Lake eighteen years ago? Caroline, whose life is stuck on pause as her finances are going down the tubes, is tempted to let him back into her life . . . but would it be wise?

For Caroline’s daughter, Daisy, the summer is filled with surprises. Home from college, she’s reunited with the father she adores—but hardly knows—and swept away by her first true love. But Will isn’t what her mother wants for her—all Caroline can see is that he’s the kind of sexy “bad boy” Daisy should stay away from.

As the long, lazy days of summer pass, Daisy and Caroline come to realize that even if Butternut Lake doesn’t change, life does. . . .    (publisher)

My take:  The synopsis tells you all you need to know so be sure to read it. This second book in the trilogy picks up three years after the end of the first book, Up at Butternut Lake.

I can tell you that I liked Butternut Summer very much. I liked the characters and the plot and I found McNear’s writing quite enjoyable. The flow of the novel was good. So good that if I had to stop reading, I did so reluctantly.

This is a story of second chances, hope, and first love. And it ends with a cliff-hanger. I can’t wait to read the third book in the Butternut Lake trilogy. I hope I don’t have to wait too long!


 

McNear Mary ap1Mary McNear is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author living in San Francisco with her husband, two teenage children, and a high-strung, miniscule white dog named Macaroon. She bases her novels on a lifetime of summers spent in a small town on a lake in the Northern Midwest.


The publisher sent a finished copy

so I’ll share it with one of my US readers :)

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Good luck!

Blog Tour: Your Perfect Life by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

your perfect life (Aug21)

  • Title:  Your Perfect Life
  • Authors:  Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  June 2014 – Washington Square Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  With “a delicious, page-turning premise, and sweet and surprising insights” (New York Times bestselling author Jen Lancaster), Your Perfect Life perfectly illustrates that old adage: Sometimes, you to have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to see what’s in her heart. Best friends since childhood, Casey and Rachel couldn’t lead more different lives. While workaholic Casey rubs elbows with celebrities daily as the host of Gossip TV and comes home nightly to an empty apartment, stay-at-home mom Rachel juggles an “oops” baby, two fiery teenagers, and a husband who barely seems the man she fell in love with two decades before. After an argument at their twentieth high school reunion, Casey and Rachel throw back shots to get the night back on track. Instead, they get a life-changing hangover. Waking up in each other’s bodies the next morning, they must figure out how to navigate their altered realities. Rachel is forced to confront the reason she gave up her broadcasting dreams when she got pregnant in college, and Casey finally steps out of the spotlight to face the truth about why she’s alone. And they soon discover that they don’t know themselves—or their best friend—nearly as well as they thought they did. Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke bring humor and heart to every page of this novel that is sure to please fans of In Her Shoes and The Opposite of MeYour Perfect Life is a story about two very different women, what they didn’t know about each other, and how, by switching lives, they each learn to appreciate their own.  (publisher)

My take:  Casey Lee and Rachel Cole have been best friends since junior high school. When they attend their 20th high school reunion neither is content with the way things are in her own life and think the other has the world by the tail. A mysterious cocktail is served to the two women before they leave the reunion and the next day Casey and Rachel wake up in each other’s body/bed/life. Oh, boy!

Your Perfect Life is an entertaining novel about two women who get a chance to find out if the grass really is greener in the other’s yard. The two find out if the assumptions they’ve fallen into regarding each other are true. They come to a deeper appreciation for what the other has gone through to get to where she is. Maybe they’ll even discover their own lives are pretty good. Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke wrote an entertaining novel filled with great characters. I loved Rachel and Casey and couldn’t wait to find out how they would get their own lives back.

If you’re looking for a fun read this summer you can’t go wrong with Your Perfect Life. I loved every minute of it! Buy a copy for your best friend!

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Praise for YOUR PERFECT LIFE

 “Has all the ingredients that I love in a book…a delicious page-turner.” –Jen Lancaster, New York Times bestselling author  

“I loved this from the very first line (which will go down in history as the funniest, bravest first line ever). Hilarious, honest and truly touching, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke are two important new voices in women’s fiction who write about life in such a real, relatable way.”  -Sarah Jio, New York Times bestselling author of The Violets of March

“Sassy, heartfelt, and smart, Your Perfect Life is a clever take on switched identities that will make you think hard about the choices you’ve made in your life and what matters most to us all in the end.” -Amy Hatvany, author of Safe with Me

“For every woman who’s ever wondered about the path not taken, Fenton and Steinke mine—with tremendous humor and insight—the mixed blessing of unexpected second chances.” -Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, New York Times bestselling authors

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About the Authors: liz and lisa 2014 2 croppedLiz Fenton and Lisa Steinke have been best friends for 25 years and survived junior high, high school and college together. Liz lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and two children. Lisa, a former talk show producer, now lives in Chicago, IL with her husband, daughter and two bonus children. Your Perfect Life is their first novel.

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You can order Your Perfect Life  from:

Love Letters: A Rose Harbor Novel by Debbie Macomber

love letters - rose harbor#3 (Aug12)

  • Title:  Love Letters
  • Series:  Rose Harbor #3
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction/Romance; series
  • Published:  August 2014 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  In this enchanting novel set at Cedar Cove’s cozy Rose Harbor Inn, #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber celebrates the power of love—and a well-timed love letter—to inspire hope and mend a broken heart.
Summer is a busy season at the inn, so proprietor Jo Marie Rose and handyman Mark Taylor have spent a lot of time together keeping the property running. Despite some folks’ good-natured claims to the contrary, Jo Marie insists that Mark is only a friend. However, she seems to be thinking about this particular friend a great deal lately. Jo Marie knows surprisingly little about Mark’s life, due in no small part to his refusal to discuss it. She’s determined to learn more about his past, but first she must face her own—and welcome three visitors who, like her, are setting out on new paths.
Twenty-three-year-old Ellie Reynolds is taking a leap of faith. She’s come to Cedar Cove to meet Tom, a man she’s been corresponding with for months, and with whom she might even be falling in love. Ellie’s overprotective mother disapproves of her trip, but Ellie is determined to spread her wings.
Maggie and Roy Porter are next to arrive at the inn. They are taking their first vacation alone since their children were born. In the wake of past mistakes, they hope to rekindle the spark in their marriage—and to win back each other’s trust. But Maggie must make one last confession that could forever tear them apart.
For each of these characters, it will ultimately be a moment when someone wore their heart on their sleeve—and took pen to paper—that makes all the difference. Debbie Macomber’s moving novel reveals the courage it takes to be vulnerable, accepting, and open to love.  (publisher)

My take:  Debbie Macomber’s third installment of the Rose Harbor series involves Jo Marie, the thirty-something widowed innkeeper, who continues to grieve the loss of her husband. She’s also trying to figure out what’s up with Mark, her handyman. This storyline has been in each book of the series and we find out a bit more in this book – but not everything.

Guests at the inn are a couple who are trying to get their marriage back on track and a young woman who is going to meet for the first time a young man she met online. Each chapter involves one of the three storylines and made for a fast, enjoyable and entertaining read.

You don’t have to have read the previous books in the series but I recommend it. You’ll get a better feel for Jo Marie’s background story. I think this book is the perfect vacation read – it was easy to set down but I always looked forward to picking it back up. I’m eager to read the next book in the series (and not just because there was a bit of a cliff-hanger). Recommended to fans of Debbie Macomber and contemporary, small town fiction.

Blog Tour and US Giveaway: After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

 

After-I-Do-Blog-Tour-Header copy

 

  • Title:  After I Do
  • Author:  Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  July 2014 – Washington Square Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes. Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for? This is a love story about what happens when the love fades. It’s about staying in love, seizing love, forsaking love, and committing to love with everything you’ve got. And above all, After I Do is the story of a couple caught up in an old game—and searching for a new road to happily ever after. (publisher)

After I Do (July 1)

 

My take:  This gem of a novel explores what happens to a relationship when the shine wears off. Lauren and Ryan have gone from being completely gaga over each other to a resentment that you can almost taste. The author paced the unfolding of their story perfectly and it was impossible to not feel for these two. They took a bit of an unorthodox way of trying to figure things out and make a go of it. I pulled for them all the way and enjoyed every page of the book.

I loved Taylor Jenkins Reid’s first novel Forever, Interrupted and wasn’t sure what to expect from After I Do. I loved it just as much as the first and have already thought of a few people I’ll buy it for. Do yourself a favor and read this book! You don’t have to be married to appreciate it. You can be married a long time (like me) and enjoy it. I think engaged and newlywed readers will learn from it. Highly recommended.

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Giveaway (US)

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Giveaway is closed

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Praise for the book: “Moving, gorgeous and, at times, heart-wrenching. Taylor Jenkins Reid writes with wit and true emotion that you can feel. Read it, savor it, share it.” – Sarah Jio, New York Times bestselling author of The Violets of March

Buy the book

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About the author:

taylor-jenkins-reid-author-writer (1)

Taylor Jenkins Reid is an author and essayist from Acton, Massachusetts. She graduated from Emerson College with a degree in Media Studies. Her first novel, Forever, Interrupted, was named one of the “11 Debuts We Love” by Kirkus Reviews. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alex, and her dog, Rabbit.

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The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee

the glass kitchen (July)

  • Title:  The Glass Kitchen
  • Author:  Linda Francis Lee
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  June 2014 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis: Portia Cuthcart and her two sisters find their way from Texas to Manhattan over the years, the heiresses to a dilapidated brownstone on the Upper West Side.  Portia is running from a bad divorce and the knowledge that she has always been a little bit different, a little bit strange:  the talented cook who knew exactly what to serve on what occasion, even to the point of predicting events that hadn’t even happened yet.  But she doesn’t cook anymore.  She has tamped down this “knowing.”  It has caused her way too many problems.  When she meets twelve-year-old Ariel Kane, she sees a girl in desperate need of a mother and a family in dire need of fried chicken, biscuits, and strawberry rhubarb pie.  Widowed Gabriel Kane has his hands full with two daughters on the cusp of womanhood, plus the Kane family have so many secrets and rivalries of their own.  Ariel, especially, must find a way to bring them all together with the help of Portia: the non-cook, the non-believer in happy endings.  Portia, who just might have to rethink the pages of her own story and take a few chances to claim what she wants deep down inside…  (publisher)

My take:  Linda Francis Lee filled her novel with lovely and colorful characters who I couldn’t wait to get back to each time I had to stop reading. The story is rather heart-wrenching but never maudlin. I wanted to hug most of the characters at one time or another.

I loved the flavor of magical-realism woven through the novel (think Sarah Addison Allen). Portia’s “knowing” seemed to work on everyone but herself. As she slowly figured things out it made for an ending that I found sigh-worthy and left me smiling.

If you’re looking for a book that makes you happy each time you pick it up, a book about what makes a family, and a book about learning to accept oneself and others for who they truly are, you’ll want to read The Glass Kitchen.

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

one plus one (july 1)

  • Title:  One Plus One
  • Author:  Jojo Moyes
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  July 2014 – Pamela Dorman Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  One single mom. One chaotic family. One quirky stranger. One irresistible love story from the New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You. . . Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.  (publisher)

My take:  Jojo Moyes is two for two in my experience with her novels. I loved Me Before You and now I can add One Plus One to the “loved” category. Through the entire book I wanted to hug Jess, her stepson Nicky and daughter Tanzie and tell them “hang in there. It’ll be ok”.  I felt the same way for a few characters in Me Before You. Moyes never makes her characters pathetic or maudlin – just truly human. And while she does that she writes incredibly funny scenes as well as heartbreaking ones. The car trip to the Math Olympiad had me laughing out loud most of the time. Ultimately the point is made that everyone deserves a second chance – and to never give up. I turned the final page with a satisfied smile hoping that Jojo Moyes’ next book won’t be too far away. I’m a fan. Highly recommended.