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.


 

Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer

  • Girl Before a Mirror (Jan27)VineTitle:  Girl Before a Mirror
  • Author:  Liza Palmer
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  January 27, 2015 – William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  An account executive in a Mad Men world, Anna Wyatt is at a crossroads. Recently divorced, she’s done a lot of emotional housecleaning, including a self-imposed dating sabbatical. But now that she’s turned forty, she’s struggling to figure out what her life needs. Brainstorming to win over an important new client, she discovers a self-help book–Be the Heroine, Find Your Hero–that offers her unexpected insights and leads her to a most unlikely place: a romance writers’ conference. If she can sign the Romance Cover Model of the Year Pageant winner for her campaign–and meet the author who has inspired her to take control of her life–she’ll win the account. 

For Anna, taking control means taking chances, including getting to know Sasha, her pretty young colleague on the project, and indulging in a steamy elevator ride with Lincoln Mallory, a dashing financial consultant she meets in the hotel. When the conference ends, Anna and Lincoln must decide if their intense connection is strong enough to survive outside the romantic fantasy they’ve created. Yet Lincoln is only one of Anna’s dilemmas. Now that her campaign is off the ground, others in the office want to steal her success, and her alcoholic brother, Ferdie, is spiraling out of control. 

To have the life she wants-to be happy without guilt, to be accepted for herself, to love and to be loved, to just be–she has to put herself first, accept her imperfections, embrace her passions, and finally be the heroine of her own story.  (publisher)

My take:  I so enjoyed this novel about a woman’s journey to accepting herself for who she really is – not the person she thought she should strive to be in order to be accepted by others (her parents, professors, boss, etc.). Liza Palmer’s story is funny, heartbreaking, poignant, and ultimately uplifting. I think many women will relate to some aspect of Anna’s personal life or career issues. I found her likable and sympathized with her struggles.

I love the way Palmer tells a story and she didn’t disappoint with Girl Before a Mirror. I liked it all. From Anna’s cheerful colleague, Sasha, to Lincoln, the dashing hero, to Helen, the encouraging and inspiring mentor – they all combined to help Anna figure things out. It’s an entertaining novel that I’ll recommend to friends.

Mr. Miracle by Debbie Macomber

  • Mr. Miracle (Vine Oct7)Title:  Mr. Miracle: A Christmas Novel
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Christmas; Contemporary Romance
  • Published:  October 2014 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  With a nod to Dickens, Debbie Macomber’s new Christmas novel is about the possibilities of new beginnings. Harry Mills (an angel) gets his chance to help some humans going in the right direction. To nudge them along, if you will. He’s a teacher at the community college and chooses A Christmas Carol as the class novel.

First up is Addie who has moved home after being gone for six years. She’ll live at her mom’s house while taking the last class needed to get her GED. Then she’ll go to college. What Addie doesn’t expect is the boy next door still being next door. Circumstances have made it so Erich must be there over the holidays. He’s not happy about that and even less thrilled that Addie is going to be involved in his life. Both Addie and Erich have regrets but can they help each other learn from those regrets and move forward?

Others who will find themselves getting attention from Harry are Danny who is on parole and must take a class and Andrew, a veteran, and his service dog. Harry has his work cut out for him with his students and his fellow faculty and staff.

I thought this was a sweet Christmas story but it’s not my favorite by the author. At the end of the book there’s an excerpt from last year’s Christmas book. After you read Mr. Miracle I recommend you read Starry Night. I really liked that one! However, if all you want is a new and fast read (that can be important at this busy time of year) you should look for Mr. Miracle. I don’t think you can go wrong with Debbie Macomber.

Love Letters: A Rose Harbor Novel by Debbie Macomber

love letters - rose harbor#3 (Aug12)

  • Title:  Love Letters
  • Series:  Rose Harbor #3
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction/Romance; series
  • Published:  August 2014 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  In this enchanting novel set at Cedar Cove’s cozy Rose Harbor Inn, #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber celebrates the power of love—and a well-timed love letter—to inspire hope and mend a broken heart.
Summer is a busy season at the inn, so proprietor Jo Marie Rose and handyman Mark Taylor have spent a lot of time together keeping the property running. Despite some folks’ good-natured claims to the contrary, Jo Marie insists that Mark is only a friend. However, she seems to be thinking about this particular friend a great deal lately. Jo Marie knows surprisingly little about Mark’s life, due in no small part to his refusal to discuss it. She’s determined to learn more about his past, but first she must face her own—and welcome three visitors who, like her, are setting out on new paths.
Twenty-three-year-old Ellie Reynolds is taking a leap of faith. She’s come to Cedar Cove to meet Tom, a man she’s been corresponding with for months, and with whom she might even be falling in love. Ellie’s overprotective mother disapproves of her trip, but Ellie is determined to spread her wings.
Maggie and Roy Porter are next to arrive at the inn. They are taking their first vacation alone since their children were born. In the wake of past mistakes, they hope to rekindle the spark in their marriage—and to win back each other’s trust. But Maggie must make one last confession that could forever tear them apart.
For each of these characters, it will ultimately be a moment when someone wore their heart on their sleeve—and took pen to paper—that makes all the difference. Debbie Macomber’s moving novel reveals the courage it takes to be vulnerable, accepting, and open to love.  (publisher)

My take:  Debbie Macomber’s third installment of the Rose Harbor series involves Jo Marie, the thirty-something widowed innkeeper, who continues to grieve the loss of her husband. She’s also trying to figure out what’s up with Mark, her handyman. This storyline has been in each book of the series and we find out a bit more in this book – but not everything.

Guests at the inn are a couple who are trying to get their marriage back on track and a young woman who is going to meet for the first time a young man she met online. Each chapter involves one of the three storylines and made for a fast, enjoyable and entertaining read.

You don’t have to have read the previous books in the series but I recommend it. You’ll get a better feel for Jo Marie’s background story. I think this book is the perfect vacation read – it was easy to set down but I always looked forward to picking it back up. I’m eager to read the next book in the series (and not just because there was a bit of a cliff-hanger). Recommended to fans of Debbie Macomber and contemporary, small town fiction.

Nest by Jorey Hurley

Nest

  • Title:  Nest
  • Author:  Jorey Hurley
  • Genre:  Children; Picture Book
  • Published:  February 2014 – Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
  • Source:  Publisher; Vine

My take:  What a delightful book! Follow a year (or more) in the life of the Robin family. Hurley uses few words to guide the reader but not many are needed. The gentle illustrations in pleasing colors tell the story.

Any young child and older reader will enjoy this book. I think it would be a perfect choice when looking for a book gift – I would give it as a “new baby” gift or to a new grandparent. Nest would be a great addition to any home library.

Blossom Street Brides by Debbie Macomber

blossom street brides (vine)

  • Title:  Blossom Street Brides
  • Series:  Blossom Street, #10
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Romance
  • Published:  March 25, 2014 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  I love my visits to Blossom Street.  I haven’t read all of the previous books but I plan to.  This time we catch up with Lydia, the owner of the yarn shop on Blossom Street – A Good Yarn. Life is good for Lydia, her husband and two children. Her mother has health issues that concern her but daughter Casey dotes upon her grandmother which eases Lydia’s worries a bit. These days Lydia is trying to solve the mystery of who is placing baskets of knitting projects around the city with directions to take the finished project to A Good Yarn. Business sure has picked up!

Lydia’s display window features a baby blanket that catches the eye of almost everyone. She has trouble keeping the yarn for the project in stock. Two women in particular are waiting for the next order to arrive. Lauren, a young woman who works down the street wants to knit the blanket for the baby her younger sister expects. Lauren would give anything to be married and pregnant. Bethanne just found out her son and his wife are expecting. She can’t wait to start knitting for her first grandchild.

After realizing her long-time boyfriend has no intention of proposing Lauren puts together a “husband list” – a list of qualities she wants in a husband. She’ll soon find that what she always thought was important is not what she really wants.

Bethanne is a newlywed and living in Seattle while her husband lives in California.  They see each other on weekends and know they can’t keep living this way. Bethanne’s daughter refuses to give her blessing to her stepfather. After all, her father wanted to reunite with her mother when his second marriage (the one he left his family for) fell apart. Bethanne feels torn between her new life and her daughter.

Blossom Street Brides is typical Debbie Macomber. She writes good stories that are quite addicting – at least they are to me! She has such an easy style that grabs me from the first page and leaves me smiling as I turn the last. I can’t wait for my next visit to Blossom Street.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

Vine- Still Life With Bread Crumbs

  • Title:  Still Life with Bread Crumbs
  • Author:  Anna Quindlen
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  January 2014 – Random House
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

My take:  Rebecca Winter, famous for a serendipitous photo series years earlier, recently won a prize for her photography that generally means she’s “old news” in the art world. She now rents out her New York City apartment and lives in a tiny and dilapidated cottage in the woods so that she can afford to pay her father’s rent, her mother’s nursing home bills and occasionally send her son a check.

Rebecca hears animals in her roof above her bed every night and one day meets Jim Bates, a roofer several years her junior. He takes care of the animal issue and eventually becomes a friend. They are charmingly awkward around each other.

As Rebecca hikes the woods she discovers what look like memorials – the kind you’d see along the highway. These are white crosses with mementos of a girl’s youth. Rebecca photographs them not knowing their actual meaning and origins – and the result is a new photography show. What will happen when she learns the truth behind the photos?

I loved this book and I loved Rebecca. She needed to step away from her life to find out if that was the life she wanted to define her – to find out if there might be more in store for her. The first half of the novel quietly built up to the point where I couldn’t stop reading. The characters are beautifully developed and achingly true. I know I’ll be thinking about Tad and Sarah and Jim and Rebecca for a while.

True Life with Bread Crumbs would be a wonderful selection for book groups.