Westering Women by Sandra Dallas

Westering Women by Sandra Dallas

Published:  January 2020 – St. Martin’s Press

Finished copy courtesy of the publisher

Description:

From the bestselling author of Prayers for Sale, Sandra Dallas’ Westering Women is an inspiring celebration of sisterhood on the perilous Overland Trail

“If you are an adventuresome young woman of high moral character and fine health, are you willing to travel to California in search of a good husband?”

It’s February, 1852, and all around Chicago, Maggie sees postings soliciting “eligible women” to travel to the gold mines of Goosetown. A young seamstress with a small daughter, she has nothing to lose. She joins forty-three other women and two pious reverends on the dangerous 2,000-mile journey west.

None are prepared for the hardships they face on the trek or for the strengths they didn’t know they possessed. Maggie discovers she’s not the only one looking to leave dark secrets behind. And when her past catches up with her, it becomes clear a band of sisters will do whatever it takes to protect one of their own. (publisher)

My take:  Westering Women is the story of a group of women who left Chicago in 1852 and headed to California with the goal of finding a husband. They were warned by the ministers leading the group that it would be an arduous journey. Almost to a woman the challenges didn’t worry them as much as the hardships they left behind in Chicago. At least, that’s what they thought at first.

Sandra Dallas put me in the story as part of the group and it was easy to feel the harsh environment of the experience. She brought to life several women who assumed leadership roles and faced obstacles head on. I appreciated the Acknowledgements that included her sources for the Overland Trail. Westering Women is a good story and I recommend it to fans of historical fiction about the American West.


 

Twenty-One Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks

Twenty-One Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks

Published:  November 2019 – St. Martin’s Press

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description: Daniel Mayrock’s life is at a crossroads. He knows the following to be true:

1. He loves his wife Jill… more than anything.
2. He only regrets quitting his job and opening a bookshop a little (maybe more than a little)
3. Jill is ready to have a baby.
4. The bookshop isn’t doing well. Financial crisis is imminent. Dan doesn’t know how to fix it.
5. Dan hasn’t told Jill about their financial trouble.
6. Then Jill gets pregnant.

This heartfelt story is about the lengths one man will go to and the risks he will take to save his family. But Dan doesn’t just want to save his failing bookstore and his family’s finances:

1. Dan wants to do something special.
2. He’s a man who is tired of feeling ordinary.
3. He’s sick of feeling like a failure.
4. He doesn’t want to live in the shadow of his wife’s deceased first husband.

Dan is also an obsessive list maker; his story unfolds entirely in his lists, which are brimming with Dan’s hilarious sense of humor, unique world-view, and deeply personal thoughts. When read in full, his lists paint a picture of a man struggling to be a man, a man who has reached a point where he’s willing to do anything for the love (and soon-to-be new love) of his life. (publisher)

My take:  It’s so tempting to write my thoughts about this book in a list because I just spent a few hours reading a book that is written in lists. I’m kind of tired of lists. That said, I liked the idea of the novel. My feelings about Dan the list maker ranged from sympathetic, annoyed, horrified, back to sympathetic, relieved. I enjoyed the secondary characters (Dan’s wife, his new friend Bill, his employee Steve). I mention them because it surprised me to connect to them only through list mentions. This is the first book by Matthew Dicks that I’ve read and I will look into reading more.  Recommended to people looking for something a little different in fiction.


About the author:

Matthew Dicks is a writer and elementary school teacher. He has been published in the Hartford Courant, featured at the Books on the Nightstand retreat, and is a Moth StorySLAM champion. He is the author of four previous novels, Something Missing, Unexpectedly Milo, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, an international bestseller, and The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs. His novels have been translated into more than 25 languages. Dicks lives in Newington, Connecticut, with his wife Elysha, and their two children.

Meet Matthew Dicks:

11/20   That Book Store – Wethersfield, CT

11/21    Simsbury Public Library – Simsbury, CT

11/22    RJ Julia – Madison, CT

11/23   Connecticut Historical Society – Hartford, CT


 

Secrets of the Chocolate House by Paula Brackston

Secrets of the Chocolate House by Paula Brackston

Expected publication:  October 22, 2019 – St. Martin’s Press

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston’s The Little Shop of Found Things was called “a page-turner that will no doubt leave readers eager for future series installments” (Publishers Weekly). Now, Brackston returns to the Found Things series with its sequel, Secrets of the Chocolate House.

After her adventures in the seventeenth century, Xanthe does her best to settle back into the rhythm of life in Marlborough. She tells herself she must forget about Samuel and leave him in the past where he belongs. With the help of her new friends, she does her best to move on, focusing instead on the success of her and Flora’s antique shop.

But there are still things waiting to be found, still injustices needing to be put right, still voices whispering to Xanthe from long ago about secrets wanting to be shared.

While looking for new stock for the shop, Xanthe hears the song of a copper chocolate pot. Soon after, she has an upsetting vision of Samuel in great danger, compelling her to make another journey to the past.

This time she’ll meet her most dangerous adversary. This time her ability to travel to the past will be tested. This time she will discover her true destiny. Will that destiny allow her to return home? And will she be able to save Samuel when his own fate seems to be sealed? (publisher)

My take:  Xanthe and her mother are new proprietors of an antiques shop and they must find enough stock to be ready for holiday shoppers to make a success of their business. Xanthe is well-suited to this job because interesting objects ‘speak’ to her. In the first book of the series it was a chatelain from the 1600s that took Xanthe on the adventure of a lifetime. Now, in the second book, Xanthe isn’t sure she wants another adventure but when she touches a recently acquired chocolate pot she envisions the man she met the first time she travelled. She realizes she may not have a choice whether or not to return to him. At the same time her ex-boyfriend turns up and instantly reminds her of why he’s an ex. Xanthe is faced with decisions and choices in the current day as well as a few centuries earlier. It all added up to an enjoyable time travel that left me looking forward to the next book in the Found Things series.


 

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.


 

Bethlehem by Karen Kelly

Bethlehem by Karen Kelly

Publication date:  July 9, 2019 – St. Martin’s Press

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Description:

Following her father-in-law’s sudden death, Joanna Rafferty Collier begrudgingly moves into her husband’s family home – the venerable and imposing Brynmor – hoping to get her marriage back on solid ground and provide comfort to her grieving mother-in-law, Susannah Parrish Collier. But her mother-in-law is less than welcoming, enigmatic, and intimidating, and the months of living at Brynmor in forced companionship and congeniality, largely without her husband by her side, have begun to take their toll on Joanna. She’s been greeted, instead, by hints of tragedies past: Whose baby is buried in the unmarked grave? And what happened to Susannah’s one true love? Slowly, Joanna comes to understand that her mother-in-law is not the impenetrable woman she thought she was, but a fragile one, harboring a lifetime of secrets.  (publisher)

My take: The publisher’s description tells everything you need to know. At least it was all I wanted to know going in. What I found is a really good story that kept me reading long into the night. Told in alternating perspectives of Joanna in the 1960s and Susannah in the 1920s, Bethlehem is the story of two women and their secrets and the cost of keeping those secrets. Not wanting to risk a spoiler I will just say I would recommend Bethlehem to fans of romantic historical fiction, family sagas and, ultimately, a well-told tale. I really liked it and won’t hesitate to read whatever Karen Kelly writes next.


Praise for Bethlehem:

“Mystery, first love, and long-held secrets fold together in this atmospheric tale of a family coming to a long overdue reckoning… and finding a way to rise from the aftermath.” – Lisa Wingate, New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

“With delicate and insightful prose, Karen Kelly sweeps us into the psyches of two deeply entwined families as their lives – and secrets- unravel. A haunting debut, Bethlehem will pull you in from start to finish, and leave you grappling with the timeless quandary of when to bury the truth, and when to confront it.” – Georgia Hunter, New York Times bestselling author of We Were the Lucky Ones


About the author:

Karen Kelly has a BA in English from Vanderbilt University, and lives in Edina, Minnesota. She is also the author of Prospice.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Jackson by Emily March

Jackson by Emily March

Published: June 25, 2019 – St. Martin’s Press

Book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:  Sometimes it takes a new beginning
Caroline Carruthers thinks she buried her dreams along with the love of her life…until a stranger named Celeste dares her to chase a dream all on her own. Moving to Redemption, Texas, is chapter one in Caroline’s new life story. Opening a bookstore is the next. Finding love is the last thing on her mind as she settles into this new place called home. But when she meets a handsome, soulful man who’s also starting over, all bets are off.

to reach a happily-ever-after
Jackson McBride came to Redemption looking only to find himself, not someone to love. Ever since his marriage ended, he’s been bitter. Sure, he used to believe in love—he even has the old song lyrics to prove it—but the Jackson of today is all business. That is, until a beautiful young widow who’s moved to town inspires a change of heart. Could it be that the myth of Redemption’s healing magic is true…and Jackson and Caroline can find a second chance at a happy ending after all? (publisher)

My take: Jackson is Emily March’s newest offshoot from her Eternity Springs series. The setting is Texas and will involve the McBride cousins, all who seem to be haunted by their pasts. Jackson has an ex-wife who just won a custody battle and he’s distraught over not being able to have contact with his daughter. His cousins convince him to return to Texas and a new business opportunity. That’s where he meets Caroline who also has come out of an emotionally draining time ending in the death of her husband. She’s ready for a fresh start. Jackson and Caroline find Redemption, Texas a perfect place to begin their next chapters. As in March’s other books the conduit to change is Celeste – a lady who knows a lot about everyone to the point of knowing what’s best for them and she has the ability to convince people to take her advice. Well, Celeste shows up in Redemption to help her cousin do what Celeste does in Eternity Springs. Their back and forth added some levity to the novel. I liked this book and am interested in reading the next because of the way things left off with Jackson’s cousin and one of Caroline’s close friends.



					

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

Published:  May 21, 2019 – St. Martin’s Press

Review galley from the publisher and NetGalley

Description:  Emmeline lives an enchanted childhood on a remote island with her father, who teaches her about the natural world through her senses. What he won’t explain are the mysterious scents stored in the drawers that line the walls of their cabin, or the origin of the machine that creates them. As Emmeline grows, however, so too does her curiosity, until one day the unforeseen happens, and Emmeline is vaulted out into the real world–a place of love, betrayal, ambition, and revenge. To understand her past, Emmeline must unlock the clues to her identity, a quest that challenges the limits of her heart and imagination.

Lyrical and immersive, The Scent Keeper explores the provocative beauty of scent, the way it can reveal hidden truths, lead us to the person we seek, and even help us find our way back home. (publisher)

My take:  Erica Bauermeister’s novels are sensual journeys. The Scent Keeper is about scent, memory and what they tell us about our past and the people in our lives. It is the story of Emmeline. We meet her as a young girl living on an island with her father. It’s an idyllic life until things change. She finds herself thrust into world so different and yet she tries to adapt. She’ll learn who to trust and find a way to survive in this new life. That will serve her well for what lies ahead on her journey of discovery.

Will Emmeline be able to hang onto the important aspects of her early years as the world opens in ways she never expected?  During all those years of living with her father on the island – where was her mother? Will her magical relationship with scent feel the effect of all the changes? As Emmeline discovers answers to her questions she’ll come to understand what’s truly important. As I read The Scent Keeper I would occasionally pause to think about the important scents of my life and what they mean to me now. That made for a very personal and enjoyable reading experience.


About the author:

Erica Bauermeister is the author of the bestselling novel The School of Essential Ingredients, Joy for Beginners, and The Lost Art of Mixing. She is also the co-author of the non-fiction works, 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader’s Guide and Let’s Hear It For the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. She has a PhD in literature from the University of Washington, and has taught there and at Antioch University. She is a founding member of the Seattle7Writers and currently lives in Port Townsend, Washington.

Photo Credit: Susan Doupé 
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