Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradel

Kitchens of the Great Midwest is such a lovely tapestry of a tale. From beginning to end, the story of Eva envelops you whole and does not let you go long after you’ve turned the last page.

I have an ever growing love for midwestern authors especially since moving to this beautiful region of the US. The writing style of the authors in this area is distinctly different from their counterparts in the rest of the country and has a flavor all its own. When that style is combined with metaphors of food, cooking and love then the result is nothing short of brilliance and that is exactly what happens within Kitchens of the Great Midwest. It is difficult to describe the plot because, while the story intricately revolves around Eva as she grows and matures into both a gorgeous, kind young woman as well as a talented chef, there are stories of so many others in Eva’s life, each of whom made a difference to her, her path, her ultimate success. Their stories are just as important as hers even though they are secondary. It is the whole, the complete when combined that makes this book so delicious – not unlike the perfect menu.

I highly recommend Kitchens of the Great Midwest and sincerely hope that you enjoy it as much as I have.

The New Husband by #DJPalmer

This is one of those strange books that I read, reviewed and the review disappeared so I read it again and, hopefully, this time around the review will “stick.”

I really like Palmer’s domestic thrillers. They are well written, the women are stronger than you generally find in these types of books and the kids aren’t too annoying. That is certainly the case with The New Husband. In fact, if you didn’t know you were reading a domestic thriller, you would think you were reading a book about second chances until about mid-way through when you start getting the hibbie-jibbies because things just don’t add up or feel right. Then you have to hurry to the end to find out why and, wow, that was a surprise.

I realize I’m late to game with this one since it was published in 2020, but if you have not read The New Husband then you should definitely check it out. It’s a good read!

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

I absolutely loved (!) Sally Hepworth’s first novel, The Mother in Law, so I suspected that I would enjoy reading her second novel, The Good Sister. Holy cow – not only did I enjoy it, I thought it was better than the first! Well done Ms. Hepworth!

We are first introduced to Fern and Rose and it becomes apparent that Fern is somewhere “on the spectrum.” I add quotations because it’s never stated but implied. She leads a very simple life, works very quietly in the library, avoids bright lights, crowds and loud noises and this is before COVID so, you know, she’s a little different. Hmmm, she also sounds a LOT like me. Her sister Rose, on the other hand, is presented as the very responsible twin. We’re not to trust Fern, of course, because of her issues and Rose has to do so much to care for Fern. Their life has been difficult, their mother was, well, also difficult so the two of them are very co-dependent. Rose is unable to have children and Fern gets the bright idea to have a child for Rose if she only can find a sperm donor who will agree. Little did the two sisters realize that Ferns decision to have a baby would turn their lives upside down!

Oh gosh, so many innuendoes, so many twists and subtle hints and still I wasn’t sure until the end how this one was going to turn out! I truly loved this one think you will as well. It’s domestic noir at its finest!! Set to be published in 2021, this is one you will want put on your TBR now.

Little Threats by Emily Schultz

In the summer of 1993, twin sisters Kennedy and Carter Wynn are embracing the grunge era and testing every limit in their privileged Richmond suburb. But Kennedy’s teenage rebellion goes too far when, after a night of partying in the woods, her best friend, Haley, is murdered, and Kennedy is sent away for her murder…

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I read the opening pages of Little Threats during the “lock down” of the virus in April thinking that I would pick it up again later in the summer. Nooooooo, from the very first lines of this book I was hooked! The story is so intriguing – twins, a third girl added to the duo who wants to be one of them so badly, bad boys, sex and drugs and seriously messed up parental units! There was no way I could put down this book!

Carter and Kennedy, twins, were teenagers rebelling against their parents’ wealth and control. In the summer of ’93, they were testing the limits by running free and wild, shoplifting items they clearly didn’t need and hanging with a crowd that introduced them to drugs and an element of society that was far different from their own. On July 4th, after a bad acid trip, Hayley – the friend – is found dead in the woods between the wealthy/poor neighborhoods. Kennedy has no memory of the night but circumstantial evidence points to her – along with a desire to “stick it to the rich kid.” Now, fifteen years later, she is out of prison and along with old memories comes someone seeking revenge and and another who wants the truth.

The story is told from multiple points of view, including writing assignments that were given to Kennedy while in prison. The overlapping, often contradictory perspectives allow the reader to understand how confusing the summer really was for all involved and how incredibly out of control the situation became. As these same stories begin to converge with one another, the red herrings disappear and the shocking truth is revealed. Although I suspected who the murderer might have been, there were so many “what about them” or “could it have been…” thoughts along the way that I still was utterly shocked by the very satisfying conclusion to this riveting and well told story. While I missed Emily Schultz’ debut book, you can bet it is on my shelf now and I highly recommend Little Threats to you for your reading list this autumn!

Happy Pub Day to #TheVacation by T.M. Logan

It’s publication day for one of my favorite suspense/thrillers of the summer: The Vacation!

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Four best friends have planned a dream vacation in a semi-secluded beach house. Their families are joining them for a week of fun, food and relaxation. However, these four gals are bringing a LOT of baggage with them including suspicions, old rivalries and jealousy and that does not even touch the problems their families have packed away. There are so many secrets, so many lies, so much drama so that when one of them is found dead it isn’t even a surprise. The surprise is who it is and who did it – and why!!

I love Logan’s writing, the way he brings each and every character to life through vivid descriptions. The atmospheric prose puts you, the reader, onto the beach, on the edge of the cliff with each of the characters themselves. It’s marvelous. But what I love most is his ability to keep you guessing and in the dark until the very end of the book. You may think you know who but the why is always a surprise – or vice-versa. The Vacation is a perfect summer read and a fabulous suspenseful book. I highly recommend it!

Thanks to #Netgalley, the author and #Stmartinspress for my copy of #TheVacation

The House of Deep Water by Jeni McFarland

The House of Deep Water is a slow churning, atmospheric story of three women and the family that surrounds them as they come crashing together under one roof in the small midwestern town of River Bend.

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Jeni McFarland covers topics that many today are coping with: abuse – spousal and familial, racial tensions, small town poverty, and isolationism. She tells the story of these women deftly, with a stoicism that sets apart the midwestern people, gives them the appearance of being hard when, in fact, they are hurting like everyone else. The story flows slowly along much like the river does through the town but it never falters. The House of Deep Water is not a cozy, feel good women’s tale but one of reality about the hardships many women – and men – face in today’s society. If you are looking for a really good read that will keep your attention and make you more aware at the end than you were at the beginning, then this is the book for you this summer!

Blog Tour – Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr

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I admit that I joined the Robyn Carr fan party late having only just started reading her this year, but I’m so glad that I discovered her writing at last! Like many, I started watching the Virgin River series and then went back to read the books. Now I’m branching out to her other collections and, wow, there are many! Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is Carr’s latest book published this month and it is fantastic. I stopped reading one of her other books so that I could read this one because I love the area of Half Moon Bay, California. The book was calling to me!

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is a tale of two sisters born twenty years apart. I thought my own kids, born five years apart, had a lot of years between them but twenty is an entire generation! Needless to say, the sisters had very little, if anything, in common. Addie, the younger sister, dropped out of university to care for their ailing parents while Justine, a successful lawyer, covered the expenses. It was the best arrangement for all concerned but now that their parents are gone, the future has changed dramatically for both sisters. With a future filled with uncertainty and change, the two will need to find a way to come together to solve both of their problems and, perhaps, to find love along the way.

I have found that Carr is a master at creating characters that the reader will care about and relate to. Both sisters, although light years away from my own lifestyle or concerns, still resonated with me. The challenges they were facing were those that many of us will face at some point in our lives. I also found the secondary characters to be a tad bit more interesting than the sisters themselves and I hope that in future books we will see them again.

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is well written women’s fiction and perfect for Carr’s fans as well as new readers to this genre, especially those who are new to Carr after watching Virgin River.

Carr_Robyn_11_ColRobyn Carr is an award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than sixty novels, including highly praised women’s fiction such as Four Friends and The View From Alameda Island and the critically acclaimed Virgin River, Thunder Point and Sullivan’s Crossing series. Virgin River is now a Netflix Original series. Robyn lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Visit her website at www.RobynCarr.com.

 

 

 

 

One Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak

Imagine swabbing your cheek for 23andme and discovering that you have two half sisters that you never knew existed. That is what happened to Serenity when she took a DNA test for research for book she was writing. One sister had grown up in foster care, one was the only daughter of a single mother and Serenity was part of an intact family with both parents and more siblings. The sisters aren’t sure how they fit together but decide to spend a few weeks together getting to know one another, hoping that during that time they will also discover something in their past that they have in common. Little did the sisters know that the weeks would turn into a summer that would change their lives forever.

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I’ve never read a book by Brenda Novak and the pace and style took time for me to get used to. I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be “chick lit” or “light romance’ or exactly which genre I was reading until, finally, I stopped worrying about it and just enjoyed the story. The sisters were similar enough, despite their upbringing, to become good friends and an encouragement to one another through a very difficult series of revelations. There were hints of romance throughout which kept the story interesting and light. There also was the underlying mystery of how the three girls had the same father by such totally different mothers.

There were times I felt the book had some believability issues, such as a hospital sending home an amputee without follow up rehab, therapy or the ability to use cutlery in his “good hand.,” but despite these moments, the over-arcing storyline was enjoyable and would make for a nice summer read.

The Familiar Dark #AmyEngel @aengelwrites

Everyone is a suspect.

Everyone has something to hide.

And someone will answer for her daughter’s murder.

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It has been a while since I’ve written about Southern Noir and I’ve missed it especially after reading the perfect book for this collection, The Familiar Dark.

Eve Taggert was raised on the wrong side of the tracks – far, far away from those tracks, in a trailer with a drug using/selling mother. Things didn’t get a lot worse than Eve’s home life. Her family had the reputation of being the worst of the very worst. Now, as adults, Eve has moved into town and has a daughter whom she adores. Her brother is a respectable cop. Eve lives entirely for her daughter, Junie, and is completely devastated when Junie and her best friend is found murdered in the park. In any other town in America, Junie’s death would be considered reprehensible but in this dirty backwoods Ozark town, it’s just another day in America. That is why Eve has vowed to find the killer herself, even if it means reverting to her mother’s brand of vigilante justice.

Let me just write a few WOWs here! WOW! Oh WOW! Seriously WOW!! Because I am stubborn, I didn’t read the first book by Engel, The Roanoke Girls, which was all the buzz a few years ago. That’s because I’m really stupid!! Amy Engel is a southern author to be reckoned with whose flair for noir puts Nordic authors to shame! From the opening lines, which perfectly capture the last horrifying dying moments of the two girls, to the volatile and satisfying ending, there is not one moment of The Familiar Dark that is not brilliantly written. Every.Single.Word. The characters are raw, gritty, dirty, corrupt and corruptible. Even the richest in this town are grimy and you know it, you feel it. Those of us who ever have lived in the Ozarks know towns exactly like this one. We’ve known people like Eve and her family and Engel skillfully brings the town and these people off of the pages and into our reality with a flourish of her pen-stroke.

I’m not going to elaborate on the plot, I’m simply going to say that if you have not read The Familiar Dark yet, I have no idea what you are waiting for. Go. Get it right now and start reading it today and, if you haven’t read The Roanoke Girls, then make sure you get that one as well, because of course I had to go back and read that one too!

The Familiar Dark gets all the stars all the way up to the highest Ozark Mountaintop! WOW!

The Sea Glass Cottage @RaeAnneThayne Harlequin Blog Tour

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I am so excited to be part of the Harlequin Blog Tour for The Sea Glass Cottage by RaeAnne Thayne. I’m a recent convert to Thayne’s books and I’m discovering how wonderful each and every one of them is.

The Sea Glass Cottage Cover

First let me say that this cover is stunning! The inviting feel that it evokes is exactly how I felt about the book. In fact, I loved the cover so much that I’m in the process of landscaping my back walkway to look just like this one! 🙂

If you are a fan of Thayne, then you will be familiar with some of the characters and certainly the community of Cape Sanctuary. Here we find Olivia, a serious and successful programmer who moved away from Cape Sanctuary years before. Her past there holds tragedy and painful memories but when her mother is hospitalized, she drops everything and rushes home to care for her mother. Here Olivia will encounter her past, reunite with her best friend and cope with her some-what obnoxious niece, the daughter of her sister whose life and death were tragic. Throughout the book we discover secrets held by Olivia, her mother, niece and even her sister. The Sea Glass Cottage is a book about healing, understanding, and forgiveness, as well as recognizing the strengths each of us hold within ourselves. The book, the story and the characters are beautifully written, engaging and entrancing from beginning to its satisfying conclusion. It is a story you will not want to miss. Yes, it is part of a series but, as someone who hasn’t read the rest of this series, I can assure you that it works very well as a stand-alone.

The Sea Glass Cottage was published earlier in March, 2020 and can be found at any of the links listed below.

Publisher: HQN Books

Buy Links: 

Harlequin 

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble 

Books-A-Million

Target

Walmart

Google

iBooks

Kobo

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New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including six RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and Career Achievement and Romance Pioneer awards from RT Book Reviews. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.raeannethayne.com.

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @RaeAnneThayne

Facebook: AuthorRaeAnneThayne

Instagram: @RaeAnneThayne

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/116118.RaeAnne_Thayne

Thank you to Samantha and Harlequin for my copy of this beautiful story!