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.

Days Like These by Sue Margolis

  • days-like-theseTitle:  Days Like These
  • Author:  Sue Margolis
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  384
  • Published:  December 2016 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Recently widowed, Judy Schofield jumps at the chance to look after her two grandchildren for six weeks, while their parents are out of the country. After all, she’s already raised one set of children—and quite successfully, if she may say so herself. But all it takes is a few days of private school functions, helicopter parents, video games, and never-ending Frozen sing-a-longs for Judy to feel she’s in over her head.
 
As weeks become months, Judy feels more and more like an outsider among all the young mothers with their parenting theories du jour, especially when she gets on the wrong side of the school’s snooty alpha mom. But finding a friend in another grandmother—and a man who takes her mind off all the stress—almost make it worthwhile. She just needs to take it one food allergy, one incomprehensible homework assignment, and one major meltdown at a time…  (publisher)

My take:  When Judy’s daughter and son-in-law, both MDs, volunteer their services to a country recently hit by an earthquake they ask Judy to care for their two young (school age) children for six weeks. Of course she agrees hoping that, along with helping her family, it might help her start to climb out of the grief she’s experienced since the death of her husband a year earlier.

Judy jumps into the children’s schedules and is soon overwhelmed with all of their activities. When the kids start to exhibit negative behaviors she realizes she needs to make some decisions. When the six weeks turns into a lengthier stint for the doctors Judy finds the challenges of grand-parenting increase as well.

I appreciated Judy’s predicament of being in the sandwich generation. Her mother added comic relief to the story as well as charm and warmth. Even though themes of bullying, grief, second chances at love, and parenting in the 21st century are addressed I found Days Like These to be a rather light and amusing novel. I liked it and would definitely read more from Sue Margolis.

Unraveling the Pieces by Terri DuLong

  • unraveling-the-piecesTitle:  Unraveling the Pieces
  • Series:  Ormond Beach #3
  • Author:  Terri DuLong
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Published:  November 2016 – Lyrical Press
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Petra Garfield has no real attachments tying her down to one place. She’s ready for an adventure, so what could be better than an extended stay at Koi House with new friends and old in enchanting Ormond Beach. Having recently lost her mother, Petra is riddled with questions about the father she never knew. She certainly never thought she’d begin to find the answers in a tiny town in Florida…
 
As much as she wants to search for the truth, Petra knows she can’t spend all her time wallowing in the past, and her friends at the Dreamweaver yarn shop aren’t about to let her. The ladies encourage her to volunteer at a local animal shelter, where she hits it off with a young boy—and his handsome father. Tangled in secrets she didn’t even know she had, Petra must learn to stitch her life back together even as she unravels lifelong mysteries—and perhaps she’ll find unexpected happiness along the way…  (publisher)

My take:  Unraveling the Pieces is the third book in Terri DuLong’s Ormond Beach series. It was fun to see familiar characters from the previous books. I recommend reading them in order.

Petra was in a previous book but as a friend to another woman – more of a support character. Now it’s her time to shine. Petra moves to Ormond Beach where she fits in perfectly with the friends she’d already made when visiting her friend the year before. She works from home so she can usually set her own hours which leaves her time to volunteer, knit, and enjoy her new friends. She also is searching for information about the father she never knew. The search will take her back to the places and people her mother knew when Petra was born.

I enjoyed this novel. There are two narratives: Petra’s and her mother’s. I liked the theme that sometimes you have to unravel the pieces of your past in order to move forward. There were some scenes in the book that were truly emotional. I don’t tear up very often while reading but I did during one particular scene when Petra starts to get answers to her questions.

Knitting is always happening in this series (as well as DuLong’s Cedar Key series). There is a pattern included that was part of the novel. I recommend Unraveling the Pieces to fans of Terri DuLong, Women’s Fiction, and knitting. I can’t wait to read the next novel in the series.


About the author: Born and raised north of Boston, Terri DuLong was previously a resident of Cedar Key, Florida. She now resides on the east coast of the state in Ormond Beach with her husband, three dogs, and two cats. A retired registered nurse, she began her writing career as a contributing writer for Bonjour Paris, where she shared her travel experiences to France in more than forty articles with a fictional canine narrator. Terri’s love of knitting provides quiet time to develop her characters and plots as she works on her new Ormond Beach novels.

You can find out more by visiting her website or Facebook fan page.

The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell

  • the secret ingredient of wishesTitle:  The Secret Ingredient of Wishes: A Novel
  • Author:  Susan Bishop Crispell
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction; Magical Realism
  • Pages:  304
  • Published:  September 2016 – Thomas Dunne Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  26-year-old Rachel Monroe has spent her whole life trying to keep a very unusual secret: she can make wishes come true. And sometimes the consequences are disastrous. So when Rachel accidentally grants an outlandish wish for the first time in years, she decides it’s time to leave her hometown—and her past—behind for good. 

Blog Tour: The Life She Wants by Robyn Carr

  • the life she wants (9:27)Title:  The Life She Wants: A Novel
  • Author:  Robyn Carr
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  368
  • Published:  September 27, 2016 – Mira
  • Source:  Publisher; Little Bird Publicity

My take:  Emma Shay’s wealthy husband committed suicide after being found guilty of running a Ponzi scheme leaving Emma to deal with the fallout alone in New York City. She decided to try to start over by going home to California where she at least had a friend who knew that none of what happened was her fault. She found a place to live and eventually a job that would get her on her feet, just barely. When the job didn’t work out she swallowed her pride and asked a former friend for a job in her housecleaning business.

The Life She Wants is about second chances – in life and in relationships. Emma learned a lot from her former life in New York, most importantly that money can’t buy happiness. Going back to where she’d started in life made her realize what she valued most and gave her courage to make things right with the people she cared about. Emma’s friend Riley had lessons to learn as well. She’d been angry about how her life changed fifteen years earlier and needed to lighten up and let people into her life.

Robyn Carr’s story pulled me in from page one. I rooted for Emma and eventually Riley to turn their lives around and find the life each yearned for. The secondary characters and storylines added interesting layers to the novel. I’m wondering if a certain detective from this book will turn up in another someday. His story seemed a bit unfinished. Regardless, I enjoyed The Life She Wants very much.


About the author:

Carr_Robyn_11_Col“I’m frequently asked what it is about my stories that make them so popular. I think it’s the sense of community and that combination of romance and women’s fiction,” says author Robyn Carr. “I’m naturally drawn to strong, capable female characters, and when I begin a story, I ask myself, ‘What is she up against?’ It’s very empowering to read about women like ourselves as they resolve the issues that threaten their happiness and peace of mind. It’s also empowering to watch smart women choosing and falling in love with men of honor and integrity.”

The author of more than 40 novels, Robyn reaches a wide audience with her writing. In addition to her touching novels, she’s written historical and contemporary romance, as well as a gripping thriller. “This is the best job I’m ever going to get wearing pajamas,” she says of her writing career.

Originally from Minnesota, Robyn and her family have seen much of the country, thanks to her husband, Jim, and his career in aviation. After the two high school sweethearts married, Jim joined the air force. They’ve lived in Texas—all four corners—Alabama, Florida, California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada.

The couple moved to Henderson, Nevada, so Jim could explore a new business opportunity. “At first, being a Midwest girl at heart, I said, ‘Oh, no, not another desert!’ It didn’t take me long to fall in love with the beauty of Nevada—and the unrivaled spectacle of Las Vegas!”

Robyn well remembers how she began her career as an author more than 25 years ago. “I was trained as a nurse but found it impossible to get work because my husband was constantly being transferred. At the time, I was reading a lot of genre fiction for the sheer entertainment value, and I thought to myself, ‘I can write this!’”

And how was her first foray into the world of literature received? “It was universally panned. I thought I had written Gone with the Wind, but in actuality it was complete trash.” In fact, it was on her third try that Robyn finally succeeded in becoming a published author.

Now that Robyn’s two children are grown—and finally out of the house—she has the luxury of a little free time. “Until my kids grew up, I didn’t realize that a person could have hobbies other than laundry,” she jokes. But it turns out not to be hobbies that keep Robyn busy when she isn’t writing— she has found her niche in community service.

She has mentored a seniors’ memoir-writing group, attends book club chats in and out of state whenever possible and is working with her local library on the Carr Chat Series, a program centered on fund-raising and visiting-author events that bring writers, their books and the community together. “It is the people in my life that fill the well,” she says. “Especially the people who share my love for books and writing.”

The Last Treasure by Erika Marks

  • the last treasureTitle:  The Last Treasure: A Novel
  • Author:  Erika Marks
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  368
  • Published:  August 2016 – NAL Accent
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  From the author of It Comes in Waves and The Guest House comes a novel of three lives entangled in the secrets of the sea and the enduring bonds of love.

As students with a shared passion for shipwrecks, Liv, Sam, and Whit formed a close bond searching for the mysterious Patriot, a schooner that disappeared off the Carolina Coast in 1812 with Aaron Burr’s daughter Theodosia aboard. But as the elusive ship drew them together, love would bring them even closer—and ultimately tear them apart.

It’s been seven years since Liv left Sam to be with Whit, and the once close-knit trio went their separate ways. Liv has given up her obsession with Theodosia Burr to focus on her career as a salvage diver and her passionate but troubled marriage to the reckless and hedonistic Whit. But when a diary of Theodosia’s is discovered in a collector’s estate, she is pulled back to the world of the Patriot, this time with startling new clues to what might have really happened. 

Diving back into the lost history of the Patriot could be just what Liv needs to find closure to a mystery that still haunts her. But when she and Whit reunite with Sam for one last salvage in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, buried romantic tensions begin to resurface, and once again Liv must choose between two men with very different hearts. (publisher)

My take:  The Last Treasure is one of those books that grabbed me from the start. I didn’t expect to read it as quickly as I did but I couldn’t stop reading. There’s the romantic triangle of Liv, Sam and Whit, a mystery that might never be solved, and diving for treasure – what’s not to love?!

The three meet in college and form a friendship that pulls in different directions over the years. Liv wants to solve the mystery of what really happened to Theodosia Burr (see description above). Sam and Whit want to help her find answers while figuring out where each is headed in life. She has real-life responsibilities that limit her choices and possibly have her feeling drawn to the wrong person.

I loved how Erika Marks’ story played out for Liv as well as Theodosia. I thought the then and now narrative revealed complex characters at a good pace and gave depth to the plot. Recommended to fans of the author and contemporary fiction. It was a perfect weekend read.

All the Time in the World by Caroline Angell

  • all the time in the worldTitle:  All the Time in the World: A Novel
  • Author:  Caroline Angell
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  336
  • Published:  July 2016 – Henry Holt
  • Source:  Publisher/FSB Associates

Description:  Charlotte, a gifted and superbly trained young musician, has been blindsided by a shocking betrayal in her promising career when she takes a babysitting job with the McLeans, a glamorous Upper East Side Manhattan family. At first, the nanny gig is just a way of tiding herself over until she has licked her wounds and figured out her next move as a composer in New York. But, as it turns out, Charlotte is naturally good with children and becomes as deeply fond of the two little boys as they are of her. When an unthinkable tragedy leaves the McLeans bereft, Charlotte is not the only one who realizes that she’s the key to holding little George and Matty’s world together. Suddenly, in addition to life’s usual puzzles, such as sorting out which suitor is her best match, she finds herself with an impossible choice between her life-long dreams and the torn-apart family she’s come to love. By turns hilarious, sexy, and wise, Caroline Angell’s remarkable and generous debut is the story of a young woman’s discovery of the things that matter most.  (publisher)

My take:  This is the story of Charlotte, a fledgling composer who is more successful at being a nanny for a young family than she is at her art. At least that’s how she feels. She had the rug pulled out from under her by a mentor who found success with Charlotte’s composition, claiming it as her own. Feeling powerless, Charlotte can barely speak about it to anyone so she does her best at helping care for the McLean children. When a tragedy occurs Charlotte becomes indispensable to the family and is even less inclined to pursue her art. As they do, things come to a head and Charlotte must make a decision that could shake the world even more for everyone involved. As difficult as it is, that decision will empower Charlotte in ways she hadn’t imagined.

I had a hard time finding something to like about a couple of the characters – two brothers, one being the father of the two young children. I found them lacking when it came to stepping up at the appropriate times – two more people to take advantage of Charlotte. And that led me to shake my head at times when Charlotte failed to speak up or act.

Caroline Angell’s novel is a study in grief, moving through grief, and finding one’s way through challenges in life. Any reader who has experienced loss of this kind will understand what the characters go through – and that there’s no right way to do it. This is just how Charlotte and the McLean family grieved their loss and started the ascent to a new normal. It’s a compelling story and I’m glad I had the chance to read it.

Sweet Tomorrows by Debbie Macomber

  • sweet tomorrows (8:2)Title:  Sweet Tomorrows
  • Series:  Rose Harbor #5
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  352
  • Published:  August 2016 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

My take:  When Jo Marie Rose purchased what became known as the Rose Harbor Inn a few years ago she was heartbroken from the loss of her husband Paul. Somehow she felt he’d led her to Cedar Cove and the charming inn and eventually she started to live again. The inn became a place of healing and she met many interesting people: Cedar Cove residents, guests at the inn, and one often infuriating handyman named Mark Taylor.

Over the years not only did Mark get under Jo Marie’s skin from time to time but he became a friend and then much more. Jo Marie also learned that Mark was much more than a handyman. In the previous novel Mark told Jo Marie to move on with her life – without him, and abruptly left Cedar Cove. He’s been gone for a year and Jo Marie has about given up hope that she’d see him again when things change.

Emily Gaffney is a teacher who accepted a new job in Cedar Cove. She needs a fresh start in a new town after a second broken engagement. She’ll stay at the inn while searching for a house. This turns out to be a blessing for Jo Marie. The two become friends and Emily helps out at the inn when Jo Marie is needed elsewhere. Emily has had to give up on some dreams and doubts the inn will work its magic on her but Jo Marie knows otherwise – especially when it comes to Emily and the difficult owner of the house she’d like to buy.

Sweet Tomorrows is the final installment in the Rose Harbor series. It’s about people at a low point who’ve almost given up on themselves, life and those close to them. Ultimately, in true Debbie Macomber fashion, it’s an uplifting story that brings the series to a close. I’m going to miss Jo Marie and the rest of the Cedar Cove family.

Spotlight/US Giveaway: Santorini Sunsets by Anita Hughes

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About the book:

Brigit Palmer is thrilled to be on the Greek Island of Santorini. She’s here for her wedding to Hollywood heart-throb Blake Crawford, one of America’s most eligible bachelors. Brigit’s parents have rented a villa, and soon guests will arrive from all over the world for the intimate ceremony.

Brigit is a New York socialite, and she’s just given up her position at a Manhattan law firm to run her father’s philanthropic foundation. Things are finally falling into place. Love, career, family. Everything is going so well…until she steps into the garden and sees her ex-husband Nathaniel hiding in the rose bushes.

Nathaniel, a failed novelist, announces that Blake sold the rights to the wedding to HELLO! Magazine for two million dollars (donated to charity), and he is the reporter assigned to write the story. Everyone expects Brigit to have her happily ever after, including her mother who taught her how to lead the perfect lifestyle, her younger sister Daisy who impatiently wishes for her own love story, and of course, her fiancé. Things are supposed to work out for them. But when Brigit discovers an unsettling secret about Blake, she questions everything she’s ever believed about love, and wonders if she’s better off alone.

Told in Anita Hughes’ spectacularly descriptive prose, SANTORINI SUNSETS is a story about family bonds, first loves, and the question of when to let go and when to hang on as tight as you can.


Anita Hughes_Credit Sheri Geoffreys (NEW)ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

ANITA HUGHES is also the author of Island in the SeaRome in Love, French CoastLake ComoMonarch Beach and Market Street. She attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing Program. Hughes lives in Dana Point, California, where she is at work on her next novel.

Photo credit: Sheri Geoffreys

 

PRAISE FOR ANITA HUGHES:

“With her magnificent descriptions of Majorca’s beauty and mouth-watering morsels, Anita Hughes takes you on a romantic journey that will leave you breathless. Island in the Sea: A Majorca Love Story is a decadent delight that must be savored!” —Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, authors of The Status Of All Things

“What a delicious book. Anita Hughes’ writing is so rich in detail that you can practically taste the almond cake and smell the sea as you turn the pages. An absorbing read and an utterly delightful escape.” —Cristina Alger, author of This Was Not The Plan and The Darlings

 

“The lush, colorful Majorcan setting is every bit as important as the plot in Hughes’ sensuous romance. Readers will be seduced by the food, sun, residents, and magic of Majorca along with plucky Juliet as they enjoy her romantic adventure.” —Booklist


US Giveaway

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Giveaway has ended

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Giveaway ends: August 24th

The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay by Kelly Harms

  • The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay (Aug 9)Title:  The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay
  • Author:  Kelly Harms
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  288
  • Published:  August 2016 – Thomas Dunne Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  A young painter, Lily has reached a crossroads in her life. Her career hasn’t taken off, her best friend may no longer be the trusted friend she thought, her boyfriend is a disappointment, and now she can’t keep up with the rising cost of living in the city. With no one to turn to, Lily is forced to move from her beloved apartment, but while packing she comes across a piece of mail that had slipped to the back of her junk drawer: a letter detailing further action needed to finalize the annulment of a quickie Vegas wedding. Ten years ago!

Lily decides it’s time to turn over a new leaf and the first item on her list of things to fix is getting the annulment… but you can’t just send a reply ten years later, “Hey by the way we are still married.” This is something that must be addressed in person. Lily takes to the road to track down her husband – the charming, fun, and sexy man she connected with all those years ago – Ben Hutchinson.

Ben Hutchinson left a wealthy dot-com lifestyle behind to return home to his family and the small town he loves, Minnow Bay. He’s been living off the grid and the last thing he expects is a wife he didn’t know he had to show up on his doorstep. 

By chance, Lily arrives at the magical Minnow Bay Inn, and there she will discover not just a place to lay her head, but new friends, a thriving art community, and maybe even the love of her life. (publisher)

My take:  I really enjoyed this charming novel. Being from Wisconsin I know a little about the North Woods and small towns and the people who live there. Lily is a city girl from Chicago so she’s not sure what to make of the people she meets when she arrives in Minnow Bay. And she really doesn’t know what to make of the guy she married on a whim ten years earlier (and then didn’t see for ten years).

Lily learns a lot about herself during her time in Minnow Bay. She becomes friends with the innkeeper and the art gallery owner – two people who show her that kindness exists in the world. She discovers an inner strength that will propel her into the next phase of her life – and that’s a good thing. I liked watching her finally stand up for herself and get the satisfaction that comes with it.

This is a feel-good story that had me smiling as I turned the last page. It reminded me a bit of  the tv show Northern Exposure and I thought Minnow Bay had a Stars Hollow vibe (for all you Gilmore Girls fans out there). I liked it all and recommend it to anyone looking for a fun read this summer.