She Gets That From Me

 

She Gets That From Me by Robin Wells

Published:  September 22, 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Quinn never expected that her best friend’s courageous decision to be a single mother by choice would end up transforming her own life in this poignant novel from USA Today bestselling author Robin Wells.
 
When Quinn Langston’s best friend unexpectedly passes away, Quinn embraces Brooke’s three-year-old daughter Lily and elderly grandmother Margaret as the family she’s always wanted.  She’ll do whatever it takes to help them heal, but she didn’t anticipate Lily’s biological father would be part of the plan. Margaret is old-fashioned, though, and she has no compunction about finding a way to reach Lily’s dad, a sperm donor. After all, he’s a blood relative, and she believes family should raise family.
 
 Zack Bradley doesn’t know what to expect when he finds out he has a child. Sperm donors don’t usually get to meet their…well, he’s not sure what to call Lily yet, but he’s certain he wants to get to know her. There’s just one of problem: he’s about to move to Seattle with his wife, Jessica, who’s undergone multiple infertility treatments, desperately wants a family of her own and can’t stand the idea of Zack playing daddy to another woman’s child.
 
Together, they’ll all learn that the human heart is infinitely expandable and there are many different roads to family. (publisher)

My take:  When the unthinkable happens to Quinn’s best friend she steps in to care for 3 year old Lily(who was conceived via donor from a fertility center) and her great-grandmother Margaret. Around this time Zack and his wife Jessica are going through their own infertility heartbreak. I won’t spoil how all the principals are drawn together but at one point I highlighted this passage:

‘ “Good Lord – sounds like an episode of Maury Povich just happened in here,” the aide whispers to the therapist.’  – (location 4145)

That was definitely the vibe I was getting while reading but I also think author Robin Wells wrote with heart and empathy. No matter how selfishly I believe Jessica acted Wells still let me find some sympathy for her situation.

The subject of infertility could be a trigger for some readers and that’s what this novel is about. It got a bit soapy at times but if you like to read novels about all kinds of families you’ll want to add She Gets That From Me to your list. I’m glad I had the chance to discover Robin Wells and will be interested to see what she writes next.


About the author:

Robin Wells was an advertising and public relations executive before becoming a full-time writer. She always dreamed of writing novels–a dream inspired by a grandmother who told “hot tales” and parents who were both librarians. Her books have won the RWA Golden Heart, two National Readers’ Choice Awards, the HOLT Medallion, and numerous other awards. She now lives in Texas with her husband, but will always be a Louisiana girl at heart.

Author photo credit: Arden Wells


 

The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux

The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux by Samantha Vérant

Published:  September 2020 – Berkley Trade

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

French-born American chef Sophie Valroux had one dream: to be part of the 1% of female chefs running a Michelin-starred restaurant. From spending summers with her grandmother, who taught her the power of cooking and food, to attending the Culinary Institute of America, Sophie finds herself on the cusp of getting everything she’s dreamed of.

Until her career goes up in flames.

Sabotaged by a fellow chef, Sophie is fired, leaving her reputation ruined and confidence shaken. To add fuel to the fire, Sophie learns that her grandmother has suffered a stroke and takes the red-eye to France. There, Sophie discovers the simple home she remembers from her childhood is now a luxurious château, complete with two restaurants and a vineyard. As Sophie tries to reestablish herself in the kitchen, she comes to understand the lengths people will go to for success and love, and how dreams can change. (publisher)

My take:  If you love to immerse yourself in foodie fiction, romantic stories and feel-good second chance tales you’ll want to read The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux.

After enduring public humiliation in New York Sophie goes to France when she gets the call that her beloved grandmother is ill. This is the woman who sparked Sophie’s love of cooking from a young age when she still lived at the family Chateau. Sophie will do anything to have more time with her grandmother as well as help at the Chateau. This is a gift because she’ll have a chance to regroup and find the confidence in the kitchen she’d lost in New York.

I enjoyed the author’s descriptive writing about the setting, food and people. This is a sweet story and  Samantha Vérant’s debut novel. I look forward to seeing what she writes next.


 

Happiness For Beginners

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

Re-release:  September 1, 2020 – St. Martin’s Griffin

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description:

Happiness for Beginners begins a year after Helen Carpenter, 32, gets divorced. Helen knew it was time to pull herself together. And she knew she needed to do something wild and adventurous and completely out of character. Which is why she signed up for a wilderness survival course in Wyoming. It’s supposed to be a chance for her to start over, but when she discovers that her brother’s even-more-annoying best friend is also coming on the trip, she can’t imagine how it will be anything other than a disaster. Despite everything, the vast wilderness has a way of making Helen’s own little life seem bigger. And, somehow the people who annoy her the most start teaching her the very things she needs to learn. Like how to stand up for herself. And how being scared can make you brave. And how sometimes you just have to get really lost before you can even have a hope of being found. (publisher)

My take:  Katherine Center’s charming novel about Helen, a recently divorced young woman setting off on an adventure, grabbed me from the start. Helen signs up for a challenging three week hiking trip in the Wyoming mountains. She wants to get stronger and toughen up regarding how she handles what life throws at her. She also wants to appreciate nature’s beauty and to be happy. She ends up learning much more about herself and true happiness from fellow hikers and experiences on the trail. She also gains new perspective on the people in her family. Deceptively light in tone (what I’ve come to expect from this author) and relatable on a few levels – I enjoyed it all.

Note: This is a re-release. It claimed a spot on my 2015 Favorite Books list!


About the author:

Katherine Center is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including Things You Save in a Fire, How to Walk Away, and Happiness for Beginners. Her fourth novel, The Lost Husband, was turned into a movie starring Leslie Bibb and Josh Duhamel, and released digitally and on VOD. Katherine recently gave a TEDx talk on how stories teach us empathy, and her work has appeared in InStyle, People, USA Today, The Atlantic, Real Simple, and others. She lives in Houston with her husband and two kids.


Praise for Happiness for Beginners:

“If you’re anything like us, you’ll read this book in one sitting.”InStyle Magazine

“A deliciously refreshing take on life.”The Houston Chronicle

“Center has written a wonderful story, a fast-paced read with sharp, perfectly written dialogue. Her newest does exactly what we want a good novel to do, introduce us to characters who engage us and take us on a journey.”Booklist

“Happiness for Beginners is my favorite Katherine Center novel yet. I folded down pages to go back to – and that’s a sign of a great book: when I see something so true or profound that I know I need to mark it. It’s wonderful. Could not put it down.”Jenny Lawson

“This wise, delicious, page-turning novel won’t let you go. Katherine Center writes about falling down, growing up, and finding love like nobody else. You can always see yourself and the people you love in her characters and their stories.”Brené Brown


 

A Little Bit Of Grace

A Little Bit Of Grace by Phoebe Fox

Published:  August 11, 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Family is everything—Grace Adams McHale’s mom must have said it to her a thousand times before she died. Before Grace’s dad ran off with an aspiring actress half his age. Before only-child Grace found out she was unable to have children of her own. Before Brian—her childhood best friend, business partner, and finally her husband—dropped a “bombshell” on her in the form of her stunning new replacement.

Which means Grace now has…nothing.

Until she receives a letter from a woman claiming to be a relative Grace never knew she had, sending her on a journey from the childhood home she had to move back into, to a Florida island to meet a total stranger who embraces her as family. There, Grace starts to uncover answers about the eccentric woman her family never mentioned: a larger-than-life octogenarian who is the keeper of a secret held for more than fifty years, and the ultimate inspiration to always be true to yourself. As Grace gets to know this woman and picks up the pieces of her own shattered life, she is forced to question whether she can find forgiveness for the unforgivable. (publisher)

My take:  Grace married the boy next door, her best friend, and they practiced law in the same firm. A HEA if I ever read one. And then Grace’s husband told her he wasn’t happy and they divorced. There’s more to their story and when faced with the last straw Grace realized she needed a change of scenery. She flew to Florida to visit her (newly found) great-aunt Milly. I loved Milly and Grace and the way they got to know each other. Milly had a lot to teach Grace and Grace was family that Milly didn’t know she had – what a gift! This is a story about finding the courage to take a new direction. It’s about trusting yourself first and accepting (some) change as a new normal. I loved this heartfelt story and recommend to fans of women’s fiction. I  can’t wait to see what Phoebe Fox writes next.


 

The Friendship List

The Friendship List by Susan Mallery

Published:  August 2020 – HQN

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Already a worldwide success in mass market and trade paperback formats, Susan Mallery’s newest hardcover is an emotional, witty, and heartfelt story about two best friends who are determined to help one another shake things up and live life to the fullest…only to discover that possibilities are everywhere–especially in the most unexpected of places.

Ellen and Unity have been best friends basically since birth, but they couldn’t be more different. Unity married her childhood sweetheart just after high school and became an Army wife, moving from base to base…until her husband’s shocking death in the line of duty leaves her a widow. Grief-stricken, it’s time for Unity to come back home to Ellen—the only person she can trust to help her rebuild her life. But Ellen has troubles of her own. Boys never seemed to notice Ellen…until one got her pregnant in high school and disappeared. Her son is now 17 and she’s wondering what to do with herself now that he’s heading off to college and he’s literally her entire world.

But now that Ellen and Unity are reunited, they’re done with their stale lives. It’s time to shake things up and start living again, knowing that they’ll always have one another to lean on. So they create a list of challenges they have to accomplish–everything from getting a tattoo to skydiving to staying out all night. And whoever completes the most challenges is the winner. But with new adventures and love just around the corner, there’s no such thing as losing…

My take:  Ellen and Unity have been friends since they were young girls. Ellen, a single mom of a seventeen year old son, got pregnant the night of her junior prom (the last time she went out with her son’s father). She had her son, finished high school and then college while living with her parents, and then got on with life as a single mom. Unity married her high school sweetheart. He was in the army and when he was killed she returned to their hometown. Ellen and Unity have been stuck in emotional ruts and they realize they aren’t getting any younger so they challenge each other with writing a list of things each woman wants/needs to do.  It was fun to see them start to come out of their shells as they crossed items off and courageously moved toward a new phase of life. Susan Mallery balanced the serious subjects with a light tone and humor. A reader discussion guide and a few recipes are included at the end.


About the author:

SUSAN MALLERY is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship and romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—forty million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.

Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two Ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as Mom.

SOCIAL LINKS:

BUY LINKS:


 

The Switch

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

Narrated by Alison Steadman and Daisy Edgar-Jones

Expected publication date:  August 18, 2020 – Macmillan Audio

Audiobook courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

About: When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some long-overdue rest.

Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

So they decide to try a two-month swap.

Eileen will live in London and look for love. She’ll take Leena’s flat, and learn all about casual dating, swiping right, and city neighbors. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire: Eileen’s sweet cottage and garden, her idyllic, quiet village, and her little neighborhood projects. (publisher)

My take:  When Carla Cotton died (before the novel begins) she left her mother, sister, Leena, and grandmother, Eileen, in the throes of grief. They’ve tried to move forward but aren’t having much success.

This is mainly Leena and Eileen’s story. As things play out Leena and Eileen decide to switch things up and change places. Leena will spend her sabbatical at her grandmother’s house in a village and Eileen will live in Leena’s London apartment. This might be the change they need to jumpstart their lives. I really enjoyed the spots these two found themselves in – some laugh out loud scenes. I know this: I want to be like Eileen when I’m her age! I loved her willingness to try new things while, at the same time, reconsider people who’d always been in her life.

Beth O’Leary wrote about serious and relatable subjects with a light touch and yet just enough weight. I think fans of Jenny Colgan and Jojo Moyes would enjoy The Switch. I loved listening to the audiobook (alternating between 1.5x and 1.75x speed). I was thoroughly entertained by the narration of Alison Steadman and Daisy Edgar-Jones. I thought their performances were spot on as they brought the characters (main and secondary) to life and made me cheer on Eileen, Leena and all the rest.


 

Dear Emmie Blue

Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis

Published:  July 14, 2020 – Atria/Emily Bestler Books

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

At sixteen, Emmie Blue stood in the fields of her school and released a red balloon into the sky. Attached was her name, her email address…and a secret she desperately wanted to be free of. Weeks later, on a beach in France, Lucas Moreau discovered the balloon and immediately emailed the attached addressed, sparking an intense friendship between the two teens.

Now, fourteen years later, Emmie is hiding the fact that she’s desperately in love with Lucas. She has pinned all her hopes on him and waits patiently for him to finally admit that she’s the one for him. So dedicated to her love for Lucas, Emmie has all but neglected her life outside of this relationship—she’s given up the search for her absentee father, no longer tries to build bridges with her distant mother, and lives as a lodger to an old lady she barely knows after being laid off from her job. And when Lucas tells Emmie he has a big question to ask her, she’s convinced this is the moment he’ll reveal his feelings for her. But nothing in life ever quite goes as planned, does it?

Emmie Blue is about to learn everything she thinks she knows about life (and love) is just that: what she thinks she knows. Is there such thing as meant to be? Or is it true when they say that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans? A story filled with heart and humor, Dear Emmie Blue is perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and Evvie Drake Starts Over. (publisher)

My take:  I don’t consider myself the intended reader (demographic) for this novel but I love a good RomCom so accepted the offer to read – and I’m so glad I did. I thought the start was a bit slow but maybe that was just me getting to know several characters. The novel picked up speed as I got to know Emmie, Lucas, and his brother. By the end I really cared about these characters. A plus was that I loved most of the supporting characters and I’d truly love to know what happens with Emmie’s work friends!

Lia Louis’ novel is full of hopes and dreams and written with so much heart. I love turning the last page of a novel while smiling and knowing I’m going to miss these people.


About the author:

Lia Louis lives in the United Kingdom with her partner and three young children. Before raising a family, she worked as a freelance copywriter and proofreader. She was the 2015 winner of Elle magazine’s annual writing competition and has been a contributor for Bloomsbury’s Writers and Artist’s blog for aspiring writers. She is the author of Somewhere Close to Happy and Dear Emmie Blue.

Twitter: @LisforLia

Instagram: @lialouisauthor


Praise for DEAR EMMIE BLUE:

“Like My Best Friend’s Wedding plus an unfairly gorgeous Frenchwoman, mixtapes, and miles of inside jokes, Louis’s latest novel blends all the highs of a romantic comedy with the lows of one woman’s complicated family history. Fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (2017) by Gail Honeyman will adore Emmie’s journey of self-discovery. Exploring that feeling of being left behind as everyone else appears to be moving on to bigger and better things, Dear Emmie Blue will resonate long after readers turn the last page.” Booklist

 

“DEAR EMMIE BLUE has everything–it oozes charm and wit and speaks beautifully about friendship and love, and the differences between the two. The British Marian Keyes
– Laura Pearson, author of I WANTED YOU TO KNOW

 

“An absolute treasure of a book. A love story to cherish.”
– Michelle Adams, author of MY SISTER

 

“DEAR EMMIE BLUE is the new Eleanor Oliphant. Deftly crafted descriptions and characters who jump off the page and drag you into the story. I loved every moment of it.”
– Bella Osborne, author of A WALK IN WILDFLOWER PARK

 

“I loved it so much. Such a perfectly crafted story that made my heart swell. So many parts gave me a severe case of goosebumps. Emmie is fabulously funny and real, and wow – that ending was perfect. People will not be able to resist Emmie Blue.”
– Jessica Ryn, author of THE EXTRAORDINARY HOPE OF DAWN BRIGHTSIDE

 

“This book is f**king perfect, buy it now.”
– Julia Whelan, critically-acclaimed author of MY OXFORD YEAR

 

“Beautifully captures the heartache and frustrations of carrying our teenaged selves with us wherever we go, and yet we would never be without them. LOVED IT.”
– Anstey Harris, author of GOODBYE PARIS

 

“This gorgeous and clever book is a heartfelt story about love and friendship, which certainly didn’t end the way I expected. Fresh and funny writing, with a heroine (and heroes!) I adored.”
– Holly Miller, author of THE SIGHT OF YOU

 

“I will happily read every word Lia Louis ever writes, from novels to shopping lists, this is a very special book by a very special writer. DEAR EMMIE BLUE is sweet, sparkling and heartwarming, the perfect book to remind you dreams can come true.”
– Lindsey Kelk, internationally bestselling author of ONE IN A MILLION


BUY LINKS

Hardcover:

·         Amazon

·         Barnes & Noble

·         Books-a-Million

·         IndieBound

eBook:

·         Amazon’s Kindle Store

·         Barnes & Noble

·         Books-a-Million

·         Google eBookstore


 

Musical Chairs

Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel

Published:  July 2020 – Atria/Emily Bestler Books

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Bridget and Will have the kind of relationship that people envy: they’re loving, compatible, and completely devoted to each other. The fact that they’re strictly friends seems to get lost on nearly everyone; after all, they’re as good as married in (almost) every way. For three decades, they’ve nurtured their baby, the Forsyth Trio—a chamber group they created as students with their Juilliard classmate Gavin Glantz. In the intervening years, Gavin has gone on to become one of the classical music world’s reigning stars, while Bridget and Will have learned to embrace the warm reviews and smaller venues that accompany modest success.

Bridget has been dreaming of spending the summer at her well-worn Connecticut country home with her boyfriend Sterling. But her plans are upended when Sterling, dutifully following his ex-wife’s advice, breaks up with her over email and her twin twenty-somethings arrive unannounced, filling her empty nest with their big dogs, dirty laundry, and respective crises.

Bridget has problems of her own: her elderly father announces he’s getting married, and the Forsyth Trio is once again missing its violinist. She concocts a plan to host her dad’s wedding on her ramshackle property, while putting the Forsyth Trio back into the spotlight. But to catch the attention of the music world, she and Will place their bets on luring back Gavin, whom they’ve both avoided ever since their stormy parting.

With her trademark humor, pitch-perfect voice, and sly perspective on the human heart, Amy Poeppel crafts a love letter to modern family life with all of its discord and harmony. In the tradition of novels by Maria Semple and Stephen McCauley, Musical Chairs is an irresistibly romantic story of role reversals, reinvention, and sweet synchronicity. (publisher)

My take:  I can’t do better than the publisher’s description so be sure to read it. Musical Chairs would make an enjoyable film. The characters are fairly strong, each unique yet relatable on some level. Multi-generational family dynamics are at the forefront and the Connecticut country house setting seems perfect. Each generation (almost to a person) is on the brink of a new direction – either in personal relationships, career, or residence.  First-world problems seem to rain down on this privileged family which at first made me uncomfortable. But then the humor in Poeppel’s writing started to shine through and I breezed through the novel on a rainy Sunday. There are classical music references sprinkled throughout and I wondered if all readers would appreciate them – but, hey, isn’t that what the internet is for?? At any rate, I became invested in seeing how things would play out for these people. Again, this would be a film I’d see.


About the author:

Amy Poeppel is the author of Musical Chairs, Limelight and Small Admissions, which was first performed as a reading at the Actors Studio. Amy has worked as a stage actress and teacher and now lives with her husband and three sons in New York City and Frankfurt, Germany.

 

 

 

Order links:


 

Well-Behaved Indian Women

Well-Behaved Indian Women by Saumya Dave

Published:  July 14, 2020 – Berkley Books

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Simran Mehta has always felt harshly judged by her mother, Nandini, especially when it comes to her little “writing hobby.” But when a charismatic and highly respected journalist careens into Simran’s life, she begins to question not only her future as a psychologist, but her engagement to her high school sweetheart.

Nandini Mehta has strived to create an easy life for her children in America. From dealing with her husband’s demanding family to the casual racism of her patients, everything Nandini has endured has been for her children’s sake. It isn’t until an old colleague makes her a life-changing offer that Nandini realizes she’s spent so much time focusing on being the Perfect Indian Woman, she’s let herself slip away.

Mimi Kadakia failed her daughter, Nandini, in ways she’ll never be able to fix­—or forget. But with her granddaughter, she has the chance to be supportive and offer help when it’s needed. As life begins to pull Nandini and Simran apart, Mimi is determined to be the bridge that keeps them connected, even as she carries her own secret burden. (publisher)

My take:  I loved this story about three generations of women living a modern life with cultural expectations and pressures. From the grandmother in India to her daughter Nandini, a family physician in America, to Nandini’s daughter Simran, ready to finish school and marry the love of her life – all three are on the brink of change.

Saumya Dave had me at page one – completely invested in her characters and the challenges they faced with admirable courage. I was inspired and can’t wait to read more from this talented author. Well-Behaved Indian Women would make a fabulous film.


 

 

How The Penguins Saved Veronica

How The Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior

Published:  June 16, 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Eighty-five-year-old Veronica McCreedy is estranged from her family and wants to find a worthwhile cause to leave her fortune to. When she sees a documentary about penguins being studied in Antarctica, she tells the scientists she’s coming to visit—and won’t take no for an answer. Shortly after arriving, she convinces the reluctant team to rescue an orphaned baby penguin. He becomes part of life at the base, and Veronica’s closed heart starts to open. 

Her grandson, Patrick, comes to Antarctica to make one last attempt to get to know his grandmother. Together, Veronica, Patrick, and even the scientists learn what family, love, and connection are all about. (publisher)

My take:  How the Penguins Saved Veronica is a lovely story about Veronica McCreedy. She’s on a mission to see penguins up close after watching a television documentary. No one can tell the octogenarian no because once she’s made up her mind there will be no argument. Veronica also wants to meet and get to know her grandson – someone she’s only recently discovered. The two will learn about each other’s past and could possibly grow to be close. This is a delightfully quirky story that had me laughing much of the time. There are also some deeply emotional scenes that gave depth to Veronica and Patrick. I enjoyed it all and loved the message spoken to Veronica by her father when she was a young girl: “There are three types of people in this world, Very. There are those who make the world worse, those who make no difference and those who make the world better. Be one who makes the world better, Very, if you can.”


 

Always The Last To Know

Always The Last To Know by Kristan Higgins

Published:  June 9, 2020 – Berkley

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

The Frosts are a typical American family. Barb and John, married almost fifty years, are testy and bored with each other…who could blame them after all this time? At least they have their daughters– Barb’s favorite, the perfect, brilliant Juliet; and John’s darling, the free-spirited Sadie. The girls themselves couldn’t be more different, but at least they got along, more or less. It was fine. It was enough.

Until the day John had a stroke, and their house of cards came tumbling down.

Now Sadie has to put her career as a teacher and struggling artist in New York on hold to come back and care for her beloved dad–and face the love of her life, whose heart she broke, and who broke hers. Now Juliet has to wonder if people will notice that despite her perfect career as a successful architect, her perfect marriage to a charming Brit, and her two perfect daughters, she’s spending an increasing amount of time in the closet having panic attacks.

And now Barb and John will finally have to face what’s been going on in their marriage all along.  (publisher)

My take:  Always the Last to Know is the story of the Frost family. Parents Barb and John are unhappy and not thinking about celebrating their upcoming 50th anniversary. Older daughter Juliet lives what most would consider a perfect life so what’s with the frequent panic attacks? Younger daughter Sadie chases her dream of being an artist but pays the bills by teaching art at a grade school and taking orders for sofa paintings. She’s committed to living in New York for her art and that has impacted her personal life more than once. When John suffers a stroke the family is forced to decide what is truly important in their lives. I didn’t think this family seemed typical at all. Most of the time I was annoyed and frustrated by the Frosts and the other characters. It could be where I am in my life – who knows. I’ve enjoyed many of Higgins’ books but something seemed missing in this one.


 

My One True North

My One True North by Milly Johnson

Published:  March 2020 – Gallery Books

E-Galley courtesy of the publisher

Description:

Six months ago, on the same night, Laurie and Pete both lost their partners. Overwhelmed by their grief, they join the same counselling group…and change their lives forever.

From their profound sadness, Pete and Laurie begin to find happiness and healing. Except, the more they get to know one another, the more Laurie begins to spot the strange parallels in their stories. Then Pete discovers a truth that changes everything—one which threatens to reverse everything they’ve worked towards.

But, as surely as a compass points north, some people cannot be kept apart. (publisher)

My take:  After the untimely deaths of their partners, Laurie (a lawyer) and Pete (a firefighter) meet at a grief support group. They are about the same age and the youngest members of the rag-tag group so they form a bit of a connection. They both have questions about their partners so a good deal of the novel revolves around finding answers. This is the first of Milly Johnson’s books I’ve read and I found her characters easy to cheer on and hope for happier times. I enjoyed the secondary characters – they provided much comic relief, which I loved. There’s a twist in the middle that I saw a mile away but I decided just to go with it and see where the author was taking us.

With themes of loss, healing and living in the moment My One True North is an uplifting story that left me smiling at the end (and also hoping to win the lottery so I can book a cruise like the one in this novel!)


About the author:

MILLY JOHNSON was born, raised and still lives in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. A Sunday Times bestseller, she is one of the Top 10 Female Fiction authors in the UK, and with millions of copies of her books sold across the world, Milly’s star continues to rise. Milly was chosen as one of the authors for The Reading Agency’s Quick Reads 2020 campaign. Her books champion women, their strength and resilience, and celebrate love, friendship and the possibility of second chances. MY ONE TRUE NORTH is her seventeenth novel.


 

The Country Guesthouse by Robyn Carr

The Country Guesthouse by Robyn Carr

A Sullivan’s Crossing Novel: Book 5

Published: January 2020 – Mira

Digital galley courtesy of Mira, NetGalley, Little Bird Publicity

Description:

A summer rental, a new beginning…

Hannah Russell’s carefully crafted plans for her life have been upended without warning. When her best friend died suddenly, Hannah became guardian to a five-year-old named Noah. With no experience at motherhood, she’s terrified she’s not up to the challenge. She and Noah need time to get to know each other, so she decides to rent a country house with stunning views on a lake in rural Colorado.

When they arrive at the house, they are greeted by the owner, a handsome man who promises to stay out of their way. But his clumsy Great Dane, Romeo, has other ideas and Noah immediately bonds with the lovable dog. As Hannah learns to become a mother, Owen Abrams, who is recovering from his own grief, can’t help but be drawn out of his solitude by his guests.

But life throws more challenges at this unlikely trio and they are tested in ways they never thought possible. All three will discover their strengths and, despite their differences, they will fight to become a family. And the people of Sullivan’s Crossing will rally around them to offer all of the support they need. (publisher)

My take:  I loved this story about three people creating a new family. They face plenty of challenges but will learn to trust their instincts in order to move forward. I liked how Robyn Carr let characters from previous books (Cal, Helen and Sully) play important roles in the plot. It was nice to see what was happening in their lives and in the small Colorado mountain town.

This is such an enjoyable series. Every time I finish reading the latest book it’s with the hope that there will be another. That’s my sign of a good read and a great addition to the series. Recommended to fans of the author, stories about family and community, and the Sullivan’s Crossing series.

Note:

I watched the Netflix production of Robyn Carr’s Virgin River a few weeks ago. This is the series that made me a fan of Carr. I loved how the series was brought to life. The casting was great. When I finished the season my mind went to the Sullivan’s Crossing series – I hope Netflix has grabbed the rights. I think it would be fabulous!


Robyn Carr is the author of more than 50 novels, which have sold over 28 million copies worldwide. She has written 11 #1 New York Times bestsellers, and her beloved Virgin River series is currently being adapted by Netflix, with the series set to premiere in late 2019 or early 2020. In 2016, Robyn was awarded the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award from Romance Writers of America.

 

 

 

 


 

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland

Published:  Oct. 29, 2019 – St. Martin’s Griffin

Book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

For fans of Josie Silver’s One Day in December, The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae is a wholly original, charismatic, and uplifting novel that no reader will soon forget.

Ailsa Rae is learning how to live. She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that—just in time—saved her life. Now, finally, she can be a normal twenty-eight-year-old. She can climb a mountain. Dance. Wait in line all day for tickets to Wimbledon.

But first, she has to put one foot in front of the other. So far, things are as bloody complicated as ever. Her relationship with her mother is at a breaking point and she wants to find her father. Then there’s Lennox, whom Ailsa loved and lost. Will she ever find love again?

Her new heart is a bold heart. She just needs to learn to listen to it. From the hospital to her childhood home, on social media and IRL, Ailsa will embark on a journey about what it means to be, and feel, alive. How do we learn to be brave, to accept defeat, to dare to dream?

From Stephanie Butland, author of The Lost for Words BookshopThe Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae will warm you from the inside out. (publisher)

My take:  Take one completely engaging lead character (Ailsa), add a life-threatening condition, a sparkling cast of characters with issues of their own, and tango – well that’s a recipe for a novel that made me happy I’m a reader.

Ailsa was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome and has managed to stay alive until the age of twenty-eight when a compatible heart becomes available. She thought the journey to that day was hard. And it was. But she learns that living with her new heart has a new set of challenges, not the least being brave enough to put herself out there in this new life.

The story is told through the blog she set up related to her condition, emails and texts with various people, and the story of past relationships. I hesitate to expand but I can say I’m very glad to have had the chance to read Stephanie Butland’s second novel. It’s an emotional novel and one that left me with a happy heart.


About the author:

Photograph by Elliott Franks

STEPHANIE BUTLAND lives with her family near the sea in the North East of England. She writes in a studio at the bottom of her garden, and when she’s not writing, she trains people to think more creatively. For fun, she reads, knits, sews, bakes, and spins. She is an occasional performance poet and the author of The Lost for Words Bookshop.

Book-buy link: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250242174


 

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.


 

Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser

Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser

Pub. date:  Feb. 5, 2019 – St. Martin’s Press

Review galley from St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley

Description:

Molly and Liza have always been enviably close. Even after Molly married Daniel, the couple considered Liza an honorary family member. But after Liza moved away, things grew more strained than anyone wanted to admit—in the friendship and the marriage.

When Daniel goes away on business, Molly and Liza plan to reconnect with a nice long video chat after the kids are in bed. But then Molly leaves the room to check on a crying child.

What Liza sees next will change everything.

Only one thing is certain: Molly needs her. Liza drives all night to be at Molly’s side—but when she arrives, the reception is icy, leaving Liza baffled and hurt. She knows there’s no denying what she saw.

Or is there?

In disbelief that their friendship could really be over, Liza is unaware she’s about to have a near miss of her own.

And Molly, refusing to deal with what’s happened, won’t turn to Daniel, either.

But none of them can go on pretending. Not after this.

Forget You Know Me is a “twisty, emotionally complex, powder keg of a tale” (bestselling author Emily Carpenter) about the wounds of people who’ve grown apart. Best friends, separated by miles. Spouses, hardened by neglect. A mother, isolated by pain.

One moment will change things for them all. (publisher)

My take:  When longtime friends Molly and Liza finally find time in their busy lives to connect via video chat something happens that will have far-reaching consequences. Molly is married and mother of two small children. Her husband Daniel has grown weary of her attempts to find a cure for her chronic pain. Feeling unsupported Molly is pulled in other directions – one being a new neighbor (a recent widower) and his toddler. She has secrets she keeps from her husband that could prove to be her undoing. I grew a bit anxious just learning about Molly’s secrets. But Daniel has secrets of his own.

Molly is going through a huge life change forced by a catastrophic event. It will force her to question so many things she once thought unshakable. Will she have the courage to move forward?

Forget You Know Me is about messy relationships made messier by life and the inability to work things out or know when its time to call it a day. I liked it and have to add that the final chapters really upped my satisfaction with the resolution. As one would hope, right? Recommended to fans of novels about messy emotional and moral entanglements that just might result in second chances.


 

The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston

The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston

Published October 2018 – St. Martin’s Press

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description:

An antique shop haunted by a ghost.
A silver treasure with an injustice in its story.
An adventure to the past she’ll never forget.

Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. When she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she has to know more.

It is while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century where it has its origins. She discovers there is an injustice in its history. The spirit that inhabits her new home confronts her and charges her with saving her daughter’s life, threatening to take Flora’s if she fails.

While Xanthe fights to save the girl amid the turbulent days of 1605, she meets architect Samuel Appleby. He may be the person who can help her succeed. He may also be the reason she can’t bring herself to leave. (publisher)

My take:  Xanthe and her mother are moving to Marlborough and opening an antiques shop – hoping for a major reboot of their life. When Xanthe buys a beautiful chatelaine she finds that not only is it a lovely piece but it will transport her to another time (1600s Marlborough) and the reality of a young girl who needs her help. Xanthe will make good use of her highly developed intuitive sense – at least that is the hope of one contentious specter who inhabits the antiques shop. Will Xanthe be able to accomplish her task and save her own mother from the wrath of the spirit? You’ll have to read to find out.

The Little Shop of Found Things is the first in a new series and recommended to fans of time travel and novels about fresh starts.


 

Good Luck With That by Kristan Higgins

My take:

Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley for granting my request to read Good Luck With That.

I’ve dealt with weight issues most of my life. More like body image issues when I come to think of it. Having grown up in the sixties and seventies I wished I could look like the girls on tv sitcoms (Brady Bunch, Partridge Family, etc). Those girls were slim and had long straight center-parted hair and I was average shape with dark naturally curly hair that had a mind of its own. I remember the day the female freshman PE teacher weighed us and measured our height. I was 5’6 and weighed 120 lbs. I felt huge – so much taller and bigger than my classmates. Talk about poor self-image, huh? So that’s what I brought with me when I read Good Luck With That.

Kristan Higgins is on my trusted favorite authors list – meaning I’ll read whatever she writes. But this one was a tough read for me. It hit so close to home on a few levels. Not exactly though – because my mother wasn’t as purposely (cluelessly?) hurtful as Georgia’s. No, my mom was well-meaning and thought she offered positive encouragement. Sigh.

So this novel is about three friends who met at a camp for overweight teenage girls. They formed a bond that carried over into adulthood. As often happens after college they met less often and kind of lost track of one friend, Emerson, because she lived hours away. Sadly, their last time to meet is when she’s dying.

After Emerson’s funeral Marley and Georgia open an envelope containing the list they compiled at camp when they were seventeen. It’s a list of things they’ll do when they are skinny. Emerson has requested they do the things on the list and that leads them to examining their relationship with food, men, family, etc.

Good Luck With That is written in Higgins’ usual warm, emotional style. Her characters’ families drew laughs and winces from me. I loved seeing Georgia and Marley take more control of their issues and discover how empowering that control can be. Filled with (mostly) delightful and endearing secondary characters I have to say this novel grew on me. What started as a book I had to put down a few times in the beginning due to certain scenes and topics, I finished the second half in a few hours. I’m glad I had the chance to read it. I think it would be a good selection for book groups – there’s a reader’s guide at the end.


 

Brief take: How To Keep A Secret by Sarah Morgan

How To Keep A Secret by Sarah Morgan

Narrator:  Laurel Lefkow

Length:  11 hrs. 16 min.

Published: July 10, 2017 Harlequin Audio

Borrowed from my library via Hoopla

My brief take:  I like novels about secrets and this one had plenty. The characters all seem to have secrets and their lives are in a state of flux. There’s Nancy, mother of two grown daughters and grandmother of a 17-year-old.  One daughter is a recent widow and the other wants nothing more than to have a child. Granddaughter Mac finds out the most important people in her life deceived her in a big way. Nancy is on the cusp of finally living the life she craves – but first she’ll have to make some tough decisions. Juicy secrets and the lovely Martha’s Vineyard setting all combined for a novel that made a long solo car trip surprisingly quick.


 

Love, Alice by Barbara Davis

  • love-alice-126Title:  Love, Alice
  • Author:  Barbara Davis
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  432
  • Published:  December 2016 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  A year ago, Dovie Larkin’s life was shattered when her fiancé committed suicide just weeks before their wedding. Now, plagued by guilt, she has become a fixture at the cemetery where William is buried, visiting his grave daily, waiting for answers she knows will never come. 
 
Then one day, she sees an old woman whose grief mirrors her own. Fascinated, she watches the woman leave a letter on a nearby grave. Dovie ignores her conscience and reads the letter—a mother’s plea for forgiveness to her dead daughter—and immediately needs to know the rest of the story. 
 
As she delves deeper, a collection of letters from the cemetery’s lost and found  begins to unravel a decades-old mystery involving one of Charleston’s wealthiest families. But even as Dovie seeks to answer questions about another woman’s past—questions filled with deception, betrayal, and heartbreaking loss—she starts to discover the keys to love, forgiveness, and finally embracing the future…  (publisher)

My take:  Love, Alice is a story of acceptance, forgiveness, and moving forward. Barbara Davis’s story involves two women: Dovie, whose fiancé committed suicide not long before their wedding date and Alice, an unwed girl forced to give up her infant after giving birth. Both grappled with questions of why as they tried to move on with their lives. Although they would never meet their stories would become entwined.

I was completely absorbed by this book. The loss experienced by Alice is heartbreaking. Her story involves the Magdalene Laundries (click link for info). Hard to believe places like that were still in operation in the 1990s. Alice was young and, although still feeling the aftereffects of tuberculosis, had some strength of mind and body to carry on when she left the asylum. Her motivation was clear – she would find her baby.

Dovie would realize she had to face the truth about William – the things she’d chosen to ignore in the past – in order to move forward.

As bleak as it may sound I found the novel uplifting. I credit Davis’s gift of storytelling.  Love, Alice is a wonderful book. Recommended to fans of the author and women’s fiction. It would be a great book club selection. Included are a readers guide and recipes.