Good Karma by Christina Kelly

  • Title:  Good Karma
  • Author:  Christina Kelly
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  320
  • Pub. Date:  June 6, 2017 – Harper Paperbacks
  • Source:  Publisher; Edelweiss

Description:  After almost forty years in New Jersey, Catherine, Ralph, and their beloved Boston Terrier Karma are hitting the road, relocating to a gorgeous, serene island off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, where Catherine can work on her backhand and Ralph can hit the links. But upon their arrival in the Seven Oaks gated community, it becomes apparent that Catherine and Ralph’s visions of retirement couldn’t be more different. While Catherine is intrigued by their quirky neighbors, Ralph’s golf-and-poker routine seems to be interrupted only by his flirtations with their zealous real estate agent. 

As the pair drift further apart, Catherine cannot help but sense her marriage is at risk. Then, she meets recent widower Fred at the dog park. United by their dogs, they embark upon a friendship that could be something more—until she discovers that he’s not quite what he seems. As she sorts out fact from fiction and discovers what sorts of secrets might be hiding behind Seven Oaks’ pristine picket fences, she’ll have to make a decision affecting her future happiness and her chance at newfound love.  (publisher)

My take:  You work hard your whole life with the goal being retirement in a nice place where you can enjoy life, your spouse, and keep doing the things you love. That’s what Catherine assumed would happen when she and her husband made the move south to a lovely gated community near Savannah. What she didn’t expect was that he would want to enjoy activities without her. Every day. She’s feeling ignored, uncared for, and lonely.

Fred’s wife died a while ago. He’s wading through grief but trying to keep a foot in the day-to-day. His dog is the reason he goes out each day – mainly to the local dog park where he sees other community residents. He’s seventy-five and wondering if his best years are behind him. There are more characters who can relate to the same feelings as Catherine and Fred and they all intersect in unexpected ways at Seven Oaks.

Good Karma is a quirky, poignant, entertaining novel that I enjoyed and think will strike a chord with readers of a certain age or readers looking for something a little different.


 

Allie and Bea by Catherine Ryan Hyde

  • Title:  Allie and Bea
  • Author:  Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  350
  • Pub. date:  May 23, 2017 – Lake Union Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher; Little Bird Publicity

Description:  Bea has barely been scraping by since her husband died. After falling for a telephone scam, she loses everything and is forced to abandon her trailer. With only two-thirds of a tank in her old van, she heads toward the Pacific Ocean with her cat—on a mission to reclaim what’s rightfully hers, even if it means making others pay for what she lost.

When fifteen-year-old Allie’s parents are jailed for tax fraud, she’s sent to a group home. But when her life is threatened by another resident, she knows she has to get out. She escapes only to find she has nowhere to go—until fate throws Allie in Bea’s path.

Reluctant to trust each other, much less become friends, the two warily make their way up the Pacific Coast. Yet as their hearts open to friendship and love from the strangers they meet on their journey, they find the courage to forge their own unique family—and begin to see an imperfect world with new eyes.  (publisher)

My take:  Allie and Bea is the story of two unlikely traveling companions. Allie is a teenager on the run and Bea is a seventy-something widow who recently lost everything except her van and a few other items. When their paths cross the two form an uneasy alliance as they set off on a road trip that will be full of lessons neither expected to learn.

I found Catherine Ryan Hyde’s writing style so comfortable to read. I was invested in the characters and their plight. I liked how they challenged themselves and each other to persevere in such dire circumstances. Even though they experienced some daunting events it was an uplifting read for me. Bea found that change wasn’t necessarily a negative thing and Allie learned that the world isn’t as black and white as she’d thought. A new perspective could create appreciation for even the most basic things. It’s a lovely novel that I recommend to fans of the author and contemporary fiction.


About the author:  Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of thirty-two published books. Her bestselling 1999 novel, Pay It Forward, adapted into a major Warner Bros. motion picture starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt, made the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults list and was translated into more than two dozen languages for distribution in more than thirty countries. Her novels Becoming Chloe and Jumpstart the World were included on the ALA’s Rainbow List; Jumpstart the World was also a finalist for two Lambda Literary Awards and won Rainbow Awards in two categories. The Language of Hoofbeats won a Rainbow Award. More than fifty of her short stories have been published in many journals, including the Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, the Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and the Sun, and in the anthologies Santa Barbara Stories and California Shorts as well as the bestselling anthology Dog Is My Co-Pilot. Her short fiction received honorable mention in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest, a second-place win for the Tobias Wolff Award, and nominations for Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize. Three have also been cited in Best American Short Stories. Hyde is the founder and former president of the Pay It Forward Foundation. As a professional public speaker, she has addressed the National Conference on Education, twice spoken at Cornell University, met with AmeriCorps members at the White House, and shared a dais with Bill Clinton.


 

One Good Thing by Wendy Wax

  • Title:  One Good Thing
  • Series:  Ten Beach Road #5
  • Author:  Wendy Wax
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  432
  • Published:  April 2017 – Berkley Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Before you can fix it up, you might have to tear it down…
Embroiled in a battle to regain control of their renovation-turned-reality TV show, Do Over, Maddie, Avery, Nikki, and Kyra find themselves holding tight to the frayed ends of their friendship and relationships. 
 
Maddie must face the realities of dating a rock star once again topping the charts and deal with her hapless ex-husband, while Avery is caught up in family drama even as she attempts to transform a tiny cottage into a home for the newly impoverished heiress who helped bankroll their last renovation. Put on bedrest, a hugely pregnant Nikki can’t quite believe love can last, or trust in her own maternal instinct. And Kyra, who has secretly put Bella Flora at risk in an attempt to salvage Do Over, must decide whether to accept a desperately needed bail out from her son’s famous father that comes with far too many strings attached…
 
But friendship is made for times like these, to keep each other—and their dreams—from crumbling. (publisher)

My take:  One Good Thing is the latest book in Wendy Wax’s Ten Beach Road series. The four women – Maddie, Avery, Nikki, and Kyra – are at a crossroads with their Do Over home refurb tv show. They are trapped in a horrible contract with the tv network that took their show and turned it into an embarrassing reality show. They want to find a way out of the contract and maintain control of the show. The odds don’t look good.

Individually each woman is facing life-altering change. They will rely on one another to help get through the challenges. I’ve enjoyed this series so much because it features women of all ages and experience in a realistic and positive way. The Florida setting is so inviting and I love the home refurb storylines. I like the parallel of the women’s lives being improved while they renovate homes.

There were a few unresolved storylines at the conclusion of One Good Thing so I’m hopeful the series will continue. I suppose this novel could stand alone but so much context will be gained if you read from the beginning. Recommended.


Fan favorite and USA Today bestselling author Wendy Wax is known for transporting readers to beautiful seaside locations with her smart, fun and utterly compelling stories. Inspired by her childhood summers and set on the backdrop of St. Petersburg, Florida, Wax’s Ten Beach Road series is equal parts authentic and charming.

Praise for the novels of Wendy Wax

“[Wax] writes with breezy wit and keen insight.”—The Atlanta Journal Constitution 

“If you’re a sucker for plucky women who rise to the occasion, this is for you.”—USA Today

 “Wax offers her trademark form of fiction, the beach read with substance.”—Booklist 

 “Wax really knows how to make a cast of characters come alive.”—RT Book Reviews


About ONE GOOD THING:

In her fifth and most exciting book yet, Wax returns to her Ten Beach Road series with ONE GOOD THING (Berkley Trade Paperback Original; April 25, 2017; $16). Picking up where Sunshine Beach left off, fans of the series will delight in catching up with familiar beloved characters and new readers will have no problem sinking into this witty and heartwarming story about loyalty, friendship and the secrets that test those bonds.

Sure to resonate with readers of Elin Hilderbrand and Jane Green, ONE GOOD THING is a warm and insightful look at love and the bonds of true friendship.


The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

  • Title:  The Garden of Small Beginnings
  • Author:  Abbi Waxman
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  368
  • Published:  May 2017 – Berkley Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  It’s been three years since her husband was killed in a car accident and Lilian is still getting used to being sane—after that one early breakdown. She’s happy just being able to get her two girls to school every morning, keep her illustrating job, and catch up on her favorite TV shows with her sister. She’s not exactly in a rut; she’s just letting the grass grow under her feet.

But then Lilian’s boss asks her to illustrate a vegetable encyclopedia and signs her up for a vegetable-gardening class. Lilian reluctantly agrees and recruits her kids and sister to join her for some drama-free Saturday mornings, because what could be more relaxing than gardening? Nothing…except that this class is filled with people who like to dig a little deeper than the surface, and an instructor who makes Lillian want to bloom for the first time in years. 

With her fellow newbie gardeners, Lilian learns what it takes to nurture plants—and friendships. Digging in the dirt, with worms and all, teaches Lilian that sometimes you have to let nature take its course, be it in gardening, in life, or in love…  (publisher)

My take:  I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much while reading a novel. I also teared up several times when author Abbi Waxman zinged me with moments that cut to the core of human emotion.

Lilian is a thirty-something widowed mother of two. Her husband died in a tragic accident four years earlier and she’s been wading through grief ever since.  Lilian is an illustrator for a small press. Her boss enrolls Lili in a gardening class in preparation for illustrating a vegetable encyclopedia. That class will transform the lives of Lili and her daughters – and everyone else involved in the class.

I adored the people who took the gardening class. Each one had an interesting story and as a group they were lovely – kind of like a wonderful summer salad.

Highly recommended to fans of contemporary fiction, laugh-out-loud moments, and a heartfelt story.


 

The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White – plus a US Giveaway of Flight Patterns

  • Title:  The Night the Lights Went Out
  • Author:  Karen White
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  416
  • Published:  April 2017 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Recently divorced, Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to the Atlanta suburb of Sweet Apple, Georgia. It’s not her first time starting over, but her efforts at a new beginning aren’t helped by an anonymous local blog that dishes about the scandalous events that caused her marriage to fail.
 
Merilee finds some measure of peace in the cottage she is renting from town matriarch Sugar Prescott. Though stubborn and irascible, Sugar sees something of herself in Merilee—something that allows her to open up about her own colorful past.
 
Sugar’s stories give Merilee a different perspective on the town and its wealthy school moms in their tennis whites and shiny SUVs, and even on her new friendship with Heather Blackford. Merilee is charmed by the glamorous young mother’s seemingly perfect life and finds herself drawn into Heather’s world.
 
In a town like Sweet Apple, where sins and secrets are as likely to be found behind the walls of gated mansions as in the dark woods surrounding Merilee’s house, appearance is everything. But just how dangerous that deception can be will shock all three women….  (publisher)

My take:  The Night the Lights Went Out is the story of two women: Merilee, a divorced mother of two young children, and Sugar, the ninety-three year old woman who rents a cottage on her land to Merilee.

Merilee is recently divorced and has moved to a different area of town so her children are enrolled in a new school – where she is quickly taken under the wing of the queen bee mom. Her new friend will do anything for her in the name of friendship – something Merilee isn’t used to but is grateful. Her life has been in a complete state of upheaval so she’s glad to have a friend.

Sugar comes off as aloof and cranky to most people but Merilee can see through that facade and doesn’t back down when Sugar gives her attitude. The two women form a friendship in spite of themselves. I enjoyed their relationship as it evolved as they discovered how much they had in common. And when things got tough they found they could rely on each other.

The Night the Lights Went Out is a story about love, revenge, and friendship. It’s about realizing who your real friends are and what that means. It made me think about my closest friends and how we would step up for each other – no questions asked. And everyone should be so fortunate to have a Sugar in their life.

Recommended to fans of Karen White and contemporary fiction.


Karen White is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty novels, including the Tradd Street series, The Night the Lights Went OutFlight PatternsThe Sound of GlassA Long Time Gone, and The Time Between. She is the coauthor of The Forgotton Room with New York Times bestselling authors Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig. She grew up in London but now lives with her husband and two children near Atlanta, Georgia.


Note:  Flight Patterns, Karen White’s 2016 novel is now available in paperback (with a new cover). I linked the title to my review. FLIGHT PATTERNS tells the story of Georgia Chambers, a fine china expert who left her family years before and is forced to return home and repair the relationships she’s carefully avoided. To embrace her own life—mistakes and all—she will have to find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past and the secrets she was forced to keep.

The publisher has made available one copy of FLIGHT PATTERNS to a US reader.

US Giveaway

Please click here and fill out the form

GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED

Giveaway ends on May 3rd, 2017

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

  • Title: Beartown
  • Author:  Fredrik Backman
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  336
  • Pub. Date:  April 25, 2017 – Atria
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world. (publisher)

My take:  Beartown is about a small town near the woods. The hockey team is one of the only bright spots in life for the people of Beartown. There are gods in Beartown – they are the stars of the hockey team. This novel addresses town culture, hockey culture, pack mentality, and human nature in general. You don’t have to know hockey to appreciate it. Fill in any other sport in place of hockey and you will probably relate on some level. One of the old salts in town tells a hockey coach that “most people don’t do what we tell them to. They do what we let them get away with.” The people of Beartown will show their best sides and some will reveal their worst when the unthinkable occurs. Fredrik Backman really gets to the core of human nature in his novels – so much so that the reader may need to take a break once in a while. Even so, I found it difficult to stop reading. It’s bittersweet, honest and will make you think. I really liked it.


 

Any Day Now by Robyn Carr

  • Title:  Any Day Now
  • Series:  Sullivan’s Crossing #2
  • Author:  Robyn Carr
  • Pages:  384
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pub. date:  April 18, 2017 – Mira Books
  • Source:  Publisher; Little Bird Publicity

Description: The highly anticipated sequel to #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr’s What We Find transports readers back to Sullivan’s Crossing. The rustic campground at the crossroads of the Colorado and Continental Divide trails welcomes everyone—whether you’re looking for a relaxing weekend getaway or a whole new lease on life. It’s a wonderful place where good people face their challenges with humor, strength and love. 

For Sierra Jones, Sullivan’s Crossing is meant to be a brief stopover. She’s put her troubled past behind her but the path forward isn’t yet clear. A visit with her big brother Cal and his new bride, Maggie, seems to be the best option to help her get back on her feet. 

Not wanting to burden or depend on anyone, Sierra is surprised to find the Crossing offers so much more than a place to rest her head. Cal and Maggie welcome her into their busy lives and she quickly finds herself bonding with Sully, the quirky campground owner who is the father figure she’s always wanted. But when her past catches up with her, it’s a special man and an adorable puppy who give her the strength to face the truth and fight for a brighter future. In Sullivan’s Crossing Sierra learns to cherish the family you are given and the family you choose.  (publisher)

My take:  Any Day Now is the second book in Robyn Carr’s Sullivan’s Crossing series. We meet Cal’s sister Sierra who is one year sober and looking for a new start in the small town her big brother now calls home. She’ll stay at Sully’s campground and help out while looking for another job. It’s the best possible place for her to start fresh. Soon she also has a waitress job at a diner in town which makes meeting locals very easy. One of those people will become quite special to Sierra and she to him.

I love how Robyn Carr creates a sense of place in her novels. She populates them with the kind of people most readers will relate to easily. I look forward to seeing several of the secondary characters in future books in the series. Most of all, I love the second chance trope. I wasn’t disappointed with Sierra’s story.

There’s a reason Sierra doesn’t drink anymore and that reason eventually catches up with her. That provided a dark and dramatic finish to the novel. I was happy to read the epilogue that closed out the book with an upbeat scene.  Recommended to fans of Robyn Carr and the Sullivan’s Crossing series.


Robyn Carr is an award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than 50 novels, including the critically acclaimed Virgin River and Thunder Point series, as well as highly praised women’s fiction titles such as Four Friends, What We Find, and The Life She Wants.

Robyn has won a RITA Award from the Romance Writers of America, and in 2016 she was awarded RWA’s Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to the genre. Her novels have been translated into 19 languages in 30 countries.

Originally from Minnesota, Robyn now resides in Henderson, Nevada, with her aviator husband; they have two grown children. When she isn’t writing, Robyn puts her energy into community service: she has mentored a seniors’ memoir-writing group, attends book club chats in and out of state whenever possible, and is working with her local library on the Carr Chat Series, a program centered on fundraising and visiting author events that bring writers, their books, and the community together.


Praise for #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Robyn Carr:

“Capturing the best of small-town romance.” — The Washington Post

“Appealing characters and a fresh and heart-tugging twist to a familiar conflict, coupled with what-did-she-just-say? dialogue and a cozy sense of community, all help make this latest installment in the Virgin River series a true romantic getaway.” — USA TODAY

“Robyn Carr delivers yet another fictional win that will speak to the soul of every feminist reader.” — Coastal Living

“Carr sets the bar for contemporary romance.” — Booklist Starred Review

“Carr continues her brilliant community-building as a number of storytelling threads come together in a rich narrative tapestry.” — Kirkus Reviews