On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

  • on-second-thought-2117Title:  On Second Thought
  • Author:  Kristan Higgins
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  480
  • Published:  January 2017 – HQN Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

My take:  Two sisters, Kate and Ainsley, have recently suffered the loss of their partners. Kate’s husband of a few months has died and Ainsley’s boyfriend of eleven years broke up with her in a humiliating way. Kate is grieving her loss like one would expect and so is Ainsley.

Eventually the two sisters wind up living together in Kate’s home. This proves to be a second chance of sorts for the sisters to get to know each other. They are seven years apart and really only share a father. Ainsley never felt her step-mother, Kate’s mom, accepted her and that affected her relationship with Kate. Living together now as women in their 30s gives new perspective to both.

Yes, this is a novel about grief and going through the phases but it was also about sisters and the many facets of that relationship. I could relate. I loved Ainsley and Kate – very different women outwardly but quite similar at the core.

Kristan Higgins writes with her usual humor and ease about the human condition. I enjoyed On Second Thought very much and recommend to fans of Higgins and women’s fiction.

About the author:

Kristan Higgins is the author of more than a dozen novels, including the beloved Blue Heron series. She has won two RITA® Awards from the Romance Writers of America and is a five-time nominee for the Kirkus Prize for best work of fiction.

 

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

  • the-things-we-keep-pbTitle:  The Things We Keep
  • Author:  Sally Hepworth
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  352
  • Published: January 2017 – St. Martin’s Griffin
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Anna Forster is only thirty-eight years old, but her mind is slowly slipping away from her. Armed only with her keen wit and sharp-eyed determination, she knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. But Anna has a secret: she does not plan on staying. She also knows there’s just one another resident who is her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.

Eve Bennett, suddenly thrust into the role of single mother to her bright and vivacious seven-year-old daughter, finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind house. When she meets Anna and Luke, she is moved by the bond the pair has forged. But when a tragic incident leads Anna’s and Luke’s families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them. Eve has her own secrets, and her own desperate circumstances that raise the stakes even higher.  (publisher)

My take:  The Things We Keep is an emotional tale about people whose memories have vanished or been taken by events beyond their control. My father-in-law died from complications of Alzheimer’s several years ago so I have a basic understanding of this horrible disease. Sally Hepworth offers another facet of the disease with characters who are in their thirties and battling the loss of memory.

Anna and Luke are two people who’ve been diagnosed with different early forms of dementia. They meet at a residential care facility that is also for elderly who can’t live independently. The story is also about Eve, a recent widow and mother of a seven-year-old daughter, Clementine. Her life turned on a dime when her husband killed himself. She is the new cook at the home. There are several supporting characters – employees of Rosalind House and a few of the residents – whose presence added richness to the story.

The story is beautifully told and one I can recommend to readers – even though the topic of Alzheimer’s can be so off-putting and upsetting. It’s a compassionate novel that made me smile at times and grab for a tissue at other times. I know I’ll be thinking about The Things We Keep for a long time and I look forward to reading more from Hepworth.


Praise for THE THINGS WE KEEP – now available in paperback

“‘For better or for worse’ takes on new meaning in Hepworth’s devastatingly beautiful love story.” – People

“This book is such a page-turner! At the end, we were left full of hope and love.” – Women’s Day

“…an unconventional tearjerker of a love story… poignant and nuanced.” – Publishers Weekly

“With startling insight and intense compassion, Hepworth creates a character who watches her intellectual world implode while at the same time experiencing a new romance. The story is a rare gem.” – Columbus Dispatch


About the author:

Sally Hepworth lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband and three children. She is currently working on her next novel.


 

Traveling Light by Lynne Branard

  • traveling-lightTitle:  Traveling Light
  • Author:  Lynne Branard
  • Pages:  320
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  January 2017 – Berkley Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Driving from North Carolina to New Mexico with her three-legged dog, a strange man’s ashes, and a waitress named Blossom riding shotgun isn’t exactly what Alissa Wells ever wanted to be doing. But it’s exactly what she needs…
 
It all starts when Alissa impulsively puts a bid on an abandoned storage unit, only to become the proud new owner of Roger Hart’s remains. Two weeks later, she jumps in her car and heads west, thinking that returning the ashes of a dead man might be the first step on her way to a new life. 
 
She isn’t wrong. 
 
Especially when Blossom, who just graduated from high school, hitches a ride with her to Texas, and Alissa has to get used to letting someone else take the wheel. Posting about their road trip on Facebook, complete with photos of Roger at every stop, Blossom opens Alissa’s eyes to the road in front of her—and to how sometimes the best things in life are the ones you never see coming…  (provided by the publisher)

My take:  After coming into possession of the remains of an unknown (to her) man, thirty-five year old Alissa feels duty-bound to return them to his last known address which is across the country from where she lives. She’ll finally use some of her numerous vacation days for the trip and take her dog with her.

Along the way she meets some interesting people: Blossom, a seventeen year old waitress from Tennessee who just happens to want a ride to Texas and Blossom’s former boyfriend who shows up a few days later. It turns into quite a unique road trip with the three making stops at tourist spots, some famous and some not so much.

Al (as she’s known to almost everyone) realizes the two teens are pretty great traveling companions. They’ll all discover things on this journey about themselves and life. I enjoyed this engaging novel about finding your place in the world.

Family Tree by Susan Wiggs

  • Family Tree by Susan Wigg (8:9:16 Wm Morrow)Title:  Family Tree
  • Author:  Susan Wiggs
  • Pages:  368
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  August 2016 – William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher; Edelweiss

My take:  Annie Rush is a producer of a television cooking show starring her husband Martin. Annie learned to cook from her grandmother who taught her that just as every recipe has a key ingredient, one’s life is mapped by key events. When Annie discovers her husband in a compromising position she knows this is one of those key events. If that isn’t enough Annie is about to experience a monumental key event.

Susan Wiggs’ story is one of second chances and the willingness to keep going, even under the most dire circumstances. Annie, Fletcher (a man from her past), and even her own parents discover what it takes to go for a second chance in life. Sometimes that means starting from where you are and other times it is starting over from scratch.

If you’re a fan of Susan Wiggs I think you’ll like Family Tree as much as I did. I loved the Vermont setting and all the foodie details. (My review galley didn’t contain any recipes so I don’t know if finished copies will.) It’s a fast read that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Recommended to fans of the author and contemporary fiction.

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

  • you will know me (7:26)Title:  You Will Know Me: A Novel
  • Author:  Megan Abbott
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  352
  • Published:  July 2016 – Little Brown
  • Source:  Publisher; Tandem Literary

My take:  You Will Know Me is the story of a family dedicated to the success of one of their children. Devon is a talented gymnast on track to make elite level and ultimately the Olympic team. The hopes of her family, coaches, and other families connected to the gym rest on her shoulders. She seems to take it all in stride until the dynamics of the gym are shaken by the death of someone close to everyone. What follows this event has everyone questioning their relationships and loyalty to each other.

I imagine there are some similarities in what it takes to become an actual elite gymnast – and how entire families are affected by the necessary sacrifices in favor of the gymnast – to the characters in this novel. I found it to be a compelling read that was difficult to put down – especially since I’d just watched most of the Rio Olympic gymnastics competition. Although I figured out the whodunit early on I thought it was an interesting novel all around.

Spotlight/US Giveaway: All the Time in the World by Caroline Angell

all the time in the world

Description:

Charlotte, a gifted and superbly trained young musician, has been blindsided by a shocking betrayal in her promising career when she takes a babysitting job with the McLeans, a glamorous Upper East Side Manhattan family. At first, the nanny gig is just a way of tiding herself over until she has licked her wounds and figured out her next move as a composer in New York. But, as it turns out, Charlotte is naturally good with children and becomes as deeply fond of the two little boys as they are of her. When an unthinkable tragedy leaves the McLeans bereft, Charlotte is not the only one who realizes that she’s the key to holding little George and Matty’s world together. Suddenly, in addition to life’s usual puzzles, such as sorting out which suitor is her best match, she finds herself with an impossible choice between her life-long dreams and the torn-apart family she’s come to love. By turns hilarious, sexy, and wise, Caroline Angell’s remarkable and generous debut is the story of a young woman’s discovery of the things that matter most.



About the Author:

Caroline Angell grew up in Endwell, N.Y., the daughter of an electrical engineer and a public school music teacher. She has a B. A. in musical theater from American University and currently lives and works in Manhattan. As a playwright and director, she has had her work performed at regional theaters in New York City and in the Washington, D.C., area. All the Time in the World is her first novel. Follow Caroline on Twitter


Praise for All the Time in the World by Caroline Angell

“An extraordinary book. Caroline Angell is wise beyond her years in rendering the heartache of grief, and all the different kinds of love we are capable of feeling. I was haunted by All the Time in the World long after finishing the last page. It reads like the work of a mature writer at the height of her powers, not a debut novel. I can’t wait to see what Ms. Angell will write next.”  —Alice LaPlante, New York Times bestselling author of Turn of Mind

“In All the Time in the World, Caroline Angell explores the different ways in which people find their way through grief, and she does it bravely and masterfully. A heart wrenching yet life affirming novel. What a debut!”  — Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle

“Caroline Angell deftly handles the complexities of love, grief, hope, humor and family. All the Time in the World is funny, beautifully textured and deeply moving. An absolute joy to read.” 
— Allie Larkin, author of Stay and Why Can’t I Be You?

“There’s wit, wisdom, and insight on every page of Caroline Angell’s great debut novel. But, more importantly than any of that are the emotional truths she reveals at every turn.” — Matthew Norman, author of Domestic Violets


US Giveaway

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all the time in the world
Giveaway ends on July 15, 2016

Summer At Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

  • summer at little beach street bakery (3:22)Title:  Summer At Little Beach Street Bakery
  • Author:  Jenny Colgan
  • Series:  Little Beach Street Bakery #2
  • Pages:  416
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  March 2016 – William Morrow Paperbacks
  • Source:  Publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Description:  A thriving bakery. A lighthouse to call home. A handsome beekeeper. A pet puffin. These are the things that Polly Waterford can call her own. This is the beautiful life she leads on a tiny island off the southern coast of England.

But clouds are gathering on the horizon. A stranger threatens to ruin Polly’s business. Her beloved boyfriend seems to be leading a secret life. And the arrival of a newcomer—a bereft widow desperately searching for a fresh start—forces Polly to reconsider the choices she’s made, even as she tries to help her new friend through grief.

Unpredictable and unforgettable, this delightful novel will make you laugh, cry, and long for a lighthouse of your own. Recipes included.  (publisher)

My take:  Jenny Colgan takes readers back to Mount Polbearne. I loved seeing what was new in the lives of Polly, Huckle and all the rest. We meet a few new characters and yes, Neil the puffin is back.

Colgan’s novel lived up to my expectations. There’s love, loss, humor and drama in the lives of the residents of the tiny seaside village in Cornwall we first visited in Little Beach Street Bakery. It was great to visit and my hope is that we might someday meet up again.

Even though Colgan provides a brief catch-up of the first book I highly recommend reading it before this book because I enjoyed it so much. Fans of small town settings and characters will find a lot to love in these books.