The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore

  • The AdmissionsTitle:  The Admissions
  • Author:  Meg Mitchell Moore
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  320
  • Published:  September 2015 – Doubleday
  • Source:  BookSparks

Description:  The Hawthorne family has it all. Great jobs, a beautiful house in one of the most affluent areas of northern California, and three charming kids with perfectly straight teeth. And then comes their eldest daughter’s senior year of high school . . .
     Firstborn Angela Hawthorne is a straight-A student and star athlete, with extracurricular activities coming out of her ears and a college application that’s not going to write itself. She’s set her sights on Harvard, her father’s alma mater, and like a dog with a chew toy, Angela won’t let up until she’s basking in crimson-colored glory. Except her class rank as valedictorian is under attack, she’s suddenly losing her edge at cross-country, and she can’t help but daydream about the cute baseball player in English class. Of course Angela knows the time put into her schoolgirl crush would be better spent coming up with a subject for her term paper—which, along with her college essay and community service hours has a rapidly approaching deadline. 
     Angela’s mother, Nora, is similarly stretched to the limit, juggling parent-teacher meetings, carpool, and a real-estate career where she caters to the mega rich and super-picky buyers and sellers of the Bay Area. The youngest daughter, Maya, still can’t read at the age of eight; the middle-child, Cecily, is no longer the happy-go-lucky kid she once was; and the dad, Gabe, seems oblivious to the mounting pressures at home because a devastating secret of his own might be exposed. A few ill-advised moves put the Hawthorne family on a heedless collision course that’s equal parts achingly real and delightfully screwball.
     Sharp and topical, The Admissions shows that if you pull at a loose thread, even the sturdiest of lives start to unravel at the seams of high achievement.  (publisher)

My take:  This is a story about a family with hopes and dreams…and secrets. It’s about what happens when their secrets become known to others and how each person deals with it.

It’s also about how we view others – our perceptions and the actual reality of what we think we know. Does that family next door really have life by the tail? How can they be so lucky when I’m not? It’s about the expectations we feel or place upon others and the intense anxiety that almost always follows. Anyone who went to college, played a sport in school or participated in a competitive group or had kids who did the same will recognize some of the emotions felt by one or all of the characters in this novel.

There’s foreshadowing from page one but as the author revealed events I was second-guessing myself in what I thought was going to happen. Meg Mitchell Moore’s novel is a warm, entertaining and addictive read that left me missing this family after turning the last page. Recommended.

I read The Admissions as part of the BookSparks Fall Reading Challenge 2015


Nantucket by Nan Rossiter (plus a US Giveaway)

  • Nantucket (8:25)Title:  Nantucket
  • Author:  Nan Rossiter
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  August 25, 2015 – Kensington
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Over twenty-five years ago, Liam Tate and Acadia McCormick Knox fell in love. It was summer on Nantucket, and eighteen-year-old Liam knew that wealthy, college-bound Cadie was way out of league for a local boy who restored boats for a living. Yet the two became inseparable, seizing every chance to slip away in Liam’s runabout to secluded spots, far from the world that was trying to keep them apart. 

After Cadie returned home to New York and discovered she was pregnant, her parents crushed any hope of communicating with the boy she’d left behind. Unanswered letters and calls couldn’t change Liam’s heart, but over the years he’s settled into a simple, solitary life in his rambling beachfront house. Now he’s learned that Cadie is returning to Nantucket for the opening of her son’s art show. Over a weekend of revelations and poignant memories, Cadie and Liam have an opportunity to confront the difference time can make, the truths that never alter, and the bittersweet second chances that arrive just in time to steer a heart back home… (publisher)

My take: Nantucket is the story of Liam and Cadie. We learn about their history in chapters that alternate between 1989 and the present. Usually when this technique is used in a novel I prefer one time period over the other but Nan Rossiter did it flawlessly and I was engrossed in both.

I loved Liam’s willingness to open himself to Cadie and her family when it would have been so much easier to keep living his closed-off life. Cadie risked a lot by coming back to Nantucket but she knew she had to do it. I was also charmed by the children in the novel. They added so much to the emotional tone of many scenes.

Of course, I loved the Nantucket setting. The passages describing Liam’s job of building and repairing boats were interesting and, at the same time, helpful in the understanding of Liam himself.

Nantucket is an emotional and romantic story of love, forgiveness, trust and second chances. I really liked it and recommend it to fans of Nan Rossiter and women’s fiction.

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The Summertime Girls by Laura Hankin

  • the summertime girls (8:4)Title:  The Summertime Girls
  • Author:  Laura Hankin
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Published:  August 2015 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  When two lifelong friends reunite for one more summer in small-town Maine, they must bridge the gap caused by the dreams and secrets that tore them apart…

Ally Morris and Beth Abbott were beyond inseparable. From the very first time they met, the girls knew they’d found a once-in-a-lifetime friendship. But sometimes, life can’t help but get in the way.

As time goes by, disappointments and petty resentments begin to alter what they once thought was forever. Ally’s boho lifestyle leaves her drowning in confusion and cheap whisky, while a terrible secret threatens to shatter Beth’s carefully controlled world. By the time they need each other most, Ally and Beth are nearly strangers to each other.

When a family crisis prompts Beth to contact Ally for help out of the blue, the girls reunite in Maine. But the distance between them is overwhelming. To save their friendship, Ally and Beth will have to confront painful moments in their past and redefine who they are—before their incredible connection fades away for good…  (publisher)

My take:  The Summertime Girls is about two friends, Ally and Beth. Like many friendships that have lasted a long time there have been ups and downs. There’s blame to go around, misunderstandings, and lots of hurt feelings. But there are bright times too. What Beth and Ally need to decide is whether they want to give up on the other or keep trying to get back to the friendship they once had.

Ally just went through a rough breakup and is a live wire reacting to whatever comes in contact with her – much to her detriment.  Beth lives a good life but it’s based on guilt for what she has or what she can do with her life. I really felt sorry for her because she was in a constant struggle to prove that she’s a good person. If any two people ever needed to have a good friend who understands them it’s these two.

My favorite character is Owen, the young man who likes Beth but isn’t afraid to hold her accountable for her words and actions. To say anything else would be a spoiler.

There are a lot of emotions tied up in their story. I loved that their friendship mirrored the one Beth’s grandma had with a lost friend. The younger women could learn a lot from them. The Summertime Girls is a story about learning about life and relationships and forgiveness. And realizing it’s never too late to learn.

Pretty Much Screwed by Jenna McCarthy

  • pretty much screwed (7:7)Title:  Pretty Much Screwed:  A Novel
  • Author:  Jenna McCarthy
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  July 2015 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Charlotte Crawford’s husband of twenty years took her out for a nice dinner and told her he wanted a divorce. If that wasn’t bad enough he also told her there was no one else – he just didn’t want to be married to her anymore.

Charlotte’s best friend went through a divorce a year earlier so she knew how hard it would be. When the legal issues were finalized Charlotte had to start living again. She found that being single and dating was a different game than twenty years ago. Jenna McCarthy had me laughing as I read about Charlotte navigating 21st century dating via social media, texting, etc. She really met some winners.

While I liked a lot of this novel I had difficulty believing some of the decisions Charlotte made. That said, I really liked Charlotte’s best friend Lizzy as well as a certain chef named Jesse. I thought the novel wrapped up a bit too neatly but that aspect, along with McCarthy’s gift for telling an entertaining story, made Pretty Much Screwed a perfect beach read.

Spotlight/US Giveaway: The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan

the art of baking blind (5:5)


There are many reasons to bake: to feed; to create; to impress; to nourish; to define ourselves; and, sometimes, it has to be said, to perfect. But often we bake to fill a hunger that would be better filled by a simple gesture from a dear one. We bake to love and be loved. 

In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookbook writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes. Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs. Eaden. There’s Jenny, facing an empty nest now that her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter; Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife’s death; Vicki, who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it’s like to have nothing and is determined her facade shouldn’t slip.

As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest pastry seems the least of the contestants’ problems. For they will learn–as Mrs. Eaden did before them–that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it’s very much harder in life.

About the Author:

SARAH VAUGHAN studied English at Oxford and went on to become a journalist. After eleven years working at theGuardian as a news reporter, health correspondent, and political correspondent, she started freelancing. She currently lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children. THE ART OF BAKING BLIND is her first novel.


Warm, wise and inspiring, an utterly delicious novel.” – Polly Williams, author of The Rise and Fall of a Yummy Mummy

Clever and compelling. I loved this!” – Nina Stibbe, author of Love, Nina

Vaughan pens an ambitious story told from multiple points of view…the story is quite engaging and the perfect fit for a book club.” Romantic Times 


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If I Could Turn Back Time by Beth Harbison

  • If I Could Turn Back Time (7:28)Title:  If I Could Turn Back Time: A Novel
  • Author:  Beth Harbison
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  July 2015 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  When thirty-eight year old Ramie Phillips does a champagne-fueled cart-wheel off a yacht she hits her head and ends up in a coma. She doesn’t know she’s in a coma. No, she’s landed back in Potomac, Maryland and she’s in the last week of high school.

Ramie’s aware that she’s not eighteen but she can’t figure out what’s going on and how she got in her eighteen year old body. When she has a chance to talk to her father again she decides to take advantage of the opportunity and soak up all the wisdom he has to offer. She also gets a second chance with her high school boyfriend, Brendan.

I liked this poignant story of finding out what one really wants in life. It’s a story of self-discovery for Ramie but also a story about the importance of living in the moment and never taking anything for granted. My favorite parts of the novel were Ramie’s heart-to-heart conversations with her dad. They had such a warm relationship and easy way of talking to each other. I also liked that she gained new perspective of her teenage life knowing what she did from her future self.

Recommended to anyone who likes a “what if things had gone differently” story. This is the second book by Harbison I’ve read and I look forward to reading another from her backlist.

Harbison, Beth_ChandlerSchwedeAbout the author:

BETH HARBISON is The New York Times bestselling author of Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong FingerWhen In Doubt, Add ButterAlways Something There To Remind MeThin, Rich, PrettyHope In A Jar;Secrets of a Shoe Addict; and Shoe Addicts Anonymous. She grew up in Potomac, Maryland, outside Washington, D.C., and now shares her time between that suburb, New York City, and a quiet home on the eastern shore.


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.

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
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.

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.