The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

Published July 9, 2019 – Berkley

Review book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description: The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.
 
When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?
 
Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)
 
It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page. (publisher)

My take:  Twenty-nine year old Nina Hill has lived a fairly singular life. Her single mother thought she didn’t need to know anything about her father and then proceeded to leave Nina in the care of a wonderful nanny until she left for college. Nina relies on herself, her books, and her planner to keep her life in order. Her very organized life is upended when she finds herself with a new family courtesy of the father she never met. Abbi Waxman’s novel is about what can happen if Nina can get past the anxiety and open herself to change and a wonderful new path in life. Nina might just find people who “get her” and even like her. I enjoyed The Bookish Life of Nina Hill and was delighted to see a few characters from Waxman’s first novel, The Garden of Small Beginnings, make an appearance. Recommended to fans of the author and easy, breezy novels you could read in a day.


About the author:

Abbi Waxman, the author of Other People’s Houses and The Garden of Small Beginnings, is a chocolate-loving, dog-loving woman who lives in Los Angeles and lies down as much as possible. She worked in advertising for many years, which is how she learned to write fiction. She has three daughters, three dogs, three cats, and one very patient husband. She can be found online at abbiwaxman.com, Facebook.com/abbiwaxmanbooks, and on Twitter @amplecat.


 

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

Published:  June 2019 – Ballantine Books

Book provided by the publisher and NetGalley

My take: On the day Evvie Drake decides to pack up and leave her husband she gets a call from the hospital saying he’s been in a terrible accident. That’s not a spoiler, it happens in the first pages of the book.

Evvie doesn’t tell anyone that she was going to leave thus throwing her into widowhood and keeping up the resulting appearances – even to her best friend. This friend, knowing Evvie needs income, sends another friend who needs a place to live to see about renting the apartment attached to Evvie’s house. Dean is a baseball pitcher who lost his mojo and needs to hide out in a place where he won’t be easily recognized. Small town, midcoast Maine seems like a good place. Evvie and Dean slowly form a friendship that was fun to read. I enjoyed their banter and the slow progression of their relationship. I liked how they figured out, in a not so simple/convenient way, the direction their lives would begin to take.

Themes of depression, anxiety, grief, friendship, and love are touched on in Linda Holmes’ deceptively breezy tale. I read it in an afternoon and recommend it to fans of romantic comedy. I wouldn’t be surprised if this winds up on the big screen.


 

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Pub. date:  August 13, 2019 – St. Martin’s Press

Book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:  Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s a total pro at other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to give up her whole life and move to Boston, Cassie suddenly has an emergency of her own.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew—even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the infatuation-inspiring rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because love is girly, and it’s not her thing. And don’t forget the advice her old captain gave her: Never date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…and it means risking it all—the only job she’s ever loved, and the hero she’s worked like hell to become. (publisher)

My take: On the night Cassie is to receive a top honor at her firefighter banquet life throws her a curveball and changes her career path.

Things You Save in a Fire is about forgiveness. As Cassie’s perspective evolved about events that happened ten years earlier, it was easy to hope that some well-deserved happiness would come her way. But first she would need to learn to forgive.

Katherine Center succeeded in making me feel the frustration of being new and female in a formerly all male firehouse and she had me flying through the pages of the breathtaking firefighter scene near the end of the novel.

A quick and enjoyable read which is exactly what I’ve come to expect from Center.


 

False Step by Victoria Helen Stone

False Step by Victoria Helen Stone

Pub. Date:  July 1, 2019 – Lake Union Publishing

Review galley from the publisher, Little Bird Publicity, and NetGalley

Description:  Stay calm, keep smiling, and watch your step. In this marriage of secrets and lies, nothing is what it seems.

For days, all of Denver, Colorado, has worried over the fate of a missing child, little Tanner Holcomb. Then, a miracle: handsome, athletic Johnny Bradley finds him, frightened but unharmed, on a hiking trail miles from his wealthy family’s mountain home.

In a heartbeat, his rescuer goes from financially strapped fitness trainer to celebrated hero. The heat of the spotlight may prove too much for Johnny’s picture-perfect family, however. His wife, Veronica, despises the pressure of the sudden fame, afraid that secrets and bitter resentments of her marriage may come to light. And she’s willing to do anything to keep them hidden.

But when a shocking revelation exposes an even darker side to Tanner’s disappearance, Veronica realizes that nothing in her life can be trusted. And everything should be feared. (publisher)

My take:  Veronica has maintained the appearance of a happy family life but really she’s tired of the charade. She can’t reveal the truth because of the pain it would cause her daughter – the same pain she herself felt growing up in a home that lacked the security of loving parents. Veronica also has a secret she knows would devastate her daughter if discovered. When her husband becomes an instant celebrity after rescuing a lost child Veronica starts to notice things that just don’t seem right. Soon her life is running out of her control and she doesn’t know who to trust. Questionable decisions by Veronica lead her to a dramatic denouement that confirmed my early suspicions of what happened.  I was a little disappointed by that because I like being shocked or surprised by the “who done it” in a suspense novel. I might be in the minority in that regard. False Step is a very quick read making it a perfect beach book or a while away the afternoon on the front porch read.


About the author:

Victoria Helen Stone, formerly writing as USA Today bestselling novelist Victoria Dahl, now writes dark suspense from her home in Utah. Her novels include the bestselling and critically-acclaimed Jane Doe; Evelyn, After; and Half Past.


 

The Good Sister by Gillian McAllister

The Good Sister by Gillian McAllister

Published:  June 11, 2019 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description: Martha and Becky Blackwater are more than sisters–they’re each other’s lifelines. When Martha finds herself struggling to balance early motherhood and her growing business, Becky steps in to babysit her niece, Layla, without a second thought, bringing the two women closer than ever. But then the unthinkable happens, and Becky is charged with murder. 

Nine months later, Becky is on trial and maintains her innocence–and so does Martha. Unable to shake the feeling that her sister couldn’t possibly be guilty, Martha sets out to uncover exactly what happened that night, and how things could have gone so wrong. As the trial progresses, fault lines between the sisters begin to show–revealing cracks deep in their relationship and threatening the family each has worked so hard to build. With incredible empathy and resounding emotional heft, The Good Sister is a powerhouse of a novel that will lead readers to question everything they know about motherhood, family, and the price of forgiveness. (publisher)

My take:  The Good Sister is a courtroom drama that pits sister against sister after a tragic event. The expert witnesses’ facts show what really happened so this is a cut and dry case. Or is it?

Gillian McAllister’s story is told from the perspectives of sisters Martha and Becky, other family members and assorted witnesses over the course of the trial. I had this case solved – a few times. I was so sure and then I wasn’t.

I was drawn into the novel because I could sympathize with both sisters in how they dealt with caring for a baby who cried almost constantly. Their guilty feelings over that and other individual issues added emotional layers to the story. Despite that, I didn’t quite connect to the characters. They seemed a bit flat. I don’t read many courtroom dramas so I don’t know how this fits in the realm for readers who do but I can say The Good Sister was a fast read that kept me invested to the very end when all was revealed.


About the author:

Gillian McAllister graduated with a degree in English from the University of Birmingham. She lives in Birmingham, England, where she works as a lawyer. She is the author of Everything But the Truth and Anything You Do Say, both Sunday Timesbestsellers in the UK. THE GOOD SISTER is her US debut.


 

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim

Published June 11, 2019 – Berkley

Book provided by the publisher and NetGalley

Description: At the news of her mother’s death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn’t spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco’s Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She’s even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant. 

The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant’s fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around—she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along. (publisher)

My take:  When Natalie Tan’s estranged mother dies Natalie returns to the home she left seven years ago. Home is a Chinatown neighborhood in San Francisco and the people who knew her before her departure are not exactly pleased to see her. She must make amends and hope that they will warm to her once again. She also hopes to find answers to life-long questions concerning her family. She will meet new people, renew old acquaintances and, along the way, create possibilities where there once were none. This is a magical story filled with yummy recipes and charming characters – and left me smiling as I turned the last page.


 

This is Home by Lisa Duffy

This is Home by Lisa Duffy

Published:  June 11, 2019 – Atria Books

Review book provided by the publisher and NetGalley

Description: Sixteen-year-old Libby Winters lives in Paradise, a seaside town north of Boston that rarely lives up to its name. After the death of her mother, she lives with her father, Bent, in the middle apartment of their triple decker home—Bent’s two sisters, Lucy and Desiree, live on the top floor. A former soldier turned policeman, Bent often works nights, leaving Libby under her aunts’ care. Shuffling back and forth between apartments—and the wildly different natures of her family—has Libby wishing for nothing more than a home of her very own.

Quinn Ellis is at a crossroads. When her husband John, who has served two tours in Iraq, goes missing back at home, suffering from PTSD he refuses to address, Quinn finds herself living in the first-floor apartment of the Winters house. Bent had served as her husband’s former platoon leader, a man John refers to as his brother, and despite Bent’s efforts to make her feel welcome, Quinn has yet to unpack a single box.

For Libby, the new tenant downstairs is an unwelcome guest, another body filling up her already crowded house. But soon enough, an unlikely friendship begins to blossom, when Libby and Quinn stretch and redefine their definition of family and home.

With gorgeous prose and a cast of characters that feel wholly real and lovably flawed, This Is Home is a nuanced and moving novel of finding where we belong. (publisher)

My take:  This is Home is the story of the people who live in the three apartments in a triple decker home near Boston. Bent (short for Bentley) and his teenage daughter Libby live in the middle, his two sisters live in the top unit, and Quinn Ellis is the newest, first floor, tenant. Bent is a policeman and former platoon leader of Quinn’s husband John. Quinn and John are separated as John deals with PTSD. She didn’t want the separation especially given her current condition. Quinn’s closest friend has been acting strange and no one seems to understand except for the brother of her friend. Libby’s aunts are loveably quirky – I enjoyed their supporting rolls in the novel. There’s drama, everyday life, heart-breaking events that Lisa Duffy wove into a novel that left me feeling upbeat as I turned the last page. It was the right book at the right time. Recommended.