It’s Valentine’s Day – what are you reading? #SundayPotluckClub/FirstComesLove

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I hope you’re having a love-ly Valentine’s Day and are sharing it with those you love and care about most. For me, that would be BOOKS! 

FIRST COMES LOVE by Camilla Isley

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First Comes Love by Camilla Isley includes three of her first books: Love Connection, I Have Never and A Christmas Date. Each of the stories can be read independently from one another but they do have a few crossovers. You can even find the books published separately if you choose.

Love Connection, the first story, was my favorite. Gemma is sitting in an airport with two tickets to two different destinations. One is for the wedding of her best friend; the other is to stop the wedding of her first real love. She ponders the outcome of each and then decides – but is it the right choice? Love Connection actually allows you, the reader, to see the outcome each way and to follow Gemma’s path of self-discovery. It it a thoughtful, well written and humorous story of love, choices and consequences.

The latter two, I Have Never and A Christmas Date, are both fairly typical ROMCOMs. They will make you laugh out loud, I promise you will, and perhaps even cry a little. Camilla Isley writes poignant love stories that are sure to touch each of you, especially on this day of love.  This is my first venture into her writing and I will be sure to watch for her future releases.

Sunday Potluck Club by Melissa Storm

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Love Love LOVED The Sunday Potluck Club. And, by the way, this review is about the entire book and not just an excerpt which was previously published.

Four very different women, with distinct personalities, forge a friendship with one another after meeting on a cancer ward. They are the survivors who, with one exception, have lost a loved one to cancer. Amy, who the story primarily revolves around; Bridget, whose mother has just died; Nicole, whose father is in remission and Hazel who lost her mother before the others. Each are grieving and coping with their loss, as well as survivor’s guilt, in their own unique way. Told from Amy’s point of view, we get to know each woman’s strength’s and their flaws as they encourage one another through difficult times. When Amy meets a man whose daughter is in her classroom and who also is coping with loss, she finally begins to see that there can be life after monumental loss.

The Sunday Potluck Club talks a lot about death, grief, and coping with loss but never in a heavy way. Yes, it is realistic to the point that you hurt for some of the women and there were times that I wanted to slap a few of them, but overall, it was a beautiful story of friendship and overcoming challenges. At its heart, it is a well crafted love story between friends as well as possible romantic interests. It’s a book about life, not death. It also is the first in a new series so each woman will have their story told. I cannot wait for the next one!

Thank you to #Netgalley, the authors, #KensingtonPublications and #PinkBloomPress for my copies of these wonderful books.

 

 

 

Three for Thursday: Look Back at Christmas #ChristmasInSilverSprings #ComingHomeForChristmas and #AWeddingInDecember

Yes, I know it’s January but, seriously, when I’m sitting by the fire and drinking cafe au lait, my brain still wants to read holiday themed, cozy reads. Since it’s not quite time for Valentine’s Day yet, I’m still reading some great books from Christmas and pretending that they are “Winter” themed books instead. Won’t you join me?

CHRISTMAS IN SILVER SPRINGS – Brenda Novak

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Let me begin by pointing out that Christmas in Silver Springs in the 6th book in a series. While it is touted as being able to be read as a “stand alone,” it is not. I spent the majority of the book feeling like the sixth grade girl who got invited to the cool kids party but didn’t know anyone. Was I supposed to like Tobias? Know why he was in jail? Was I supposed to care who Harper was or her snotty sister? I think readers of Novak’s books are familiar with these characters and, most likely, has a relationship with them that allows the reader to overlook certain questionable aspects of a character. I didn’t have that luxury. Therefore, many of things that these characters said or did simply didn’t ring true for me.

With ALL of that stated, the book itself is well written, the characters are interesting and the story is a sweet one, full of angst and longing and hand wringing. If you are a fan of Novak’s then this is a “must read” for you. If you do not already read her books then I suggest that you start at the beginning which is what I intend to do. An added note to any and all publishers – PLEASE let us know when a holiday book is built on characters’ story lines from previous books. Not all authors do this, but many do and it is getting more and more annoying to pick up a book and realize you are starting at a disadvantage.

A WEDDING IN DECEMBER by Sarah Morgan

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I absolutely adored A Wedding in December. This is exactly the fun, sweet, warm, witty story that I like to read any time of year but especially in the dead of winter. Don’t you just feel all warm and toasty reading a good love story? Okay, yeah,  I maybe stretching it a little but you know what I mean!

Rosie, an ex-pat from the UK, is marrying a yank from Aspen Colorado. Her family has flown in to celebrate the big day but not everyone is in the mood for festivities. Rosie’s parents are on the brink of divorce and her sister, Katie, who always has had a say in everything Rosie has done, is not happy about the groom, a man she has never met. When Katie meets his best friend, she is even less happy. Hi-jinks and shenanigans abound as the White family tries to keep secrets, break up the wedding, put everything back together again AND salvage their familial relationships. The writing is perfect, the characters are so realistic and the fun is abounding in this charming WINTER tale! I highly recommend it any time of the year.

COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS – by RaeAnne Thayne

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I’m extremely conflicted about Coming Home for Christmas. RaeAnne Thayne is a well known, much loved romance author and her writing is wonderful. I cared immensely for all of the characters, Elizabeth and Luke, and their children. Despite the fact that this is part of an ongoing series, there was enough backstory that I never felt lost or needed more information to comprehend what was going on with the main characters or those in the town.My concern with the book is the story line itself and its lack of credibility.

Elizabeth was suffering from post-partum depression, severely, to the point that she became suicidal and thought that she would harm her baby. Fleeing from her home, she eventually gets into an accident in which the driver was killed and Elizabeth was gravely injured, both physically and mentally. After a very long rehabilitation from which she never fully recovered, she made the decision that it would be better for her family if she stayed away from them. Meanwhile, Luke is going to be charged with her murder by the new hot-shot cop in town. The only way he can save himself is find answers about where Elizabeth is and why she stayed away. Okay, so when I write it all out it doesn’t soooo unbelievable. What do you think? I really loved the story and read it in a nanosecond so I’m going to say that I should recommend it with a the warning that parts may be a teeny-tiny bit contrived. That works.

So what about you? Did you get all of your holiday reading finished or are you like me and still carrying over some of those last minute finds? Have you read any of these? What did you think about them?

@Netgalley @HarlequinPress @SarahMorgan

 

 

Healthy Happy Wishes to you ALL and to all a good night…..

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The holidays are magical times regardless of how you celebrate or what you believe. In light of that, I have a tiny little review of a magical little holiday book that I read, A Slice of Christmas Magic by A.G. Mayes. cover165403-medium

This is the second book in the series; the first is A Slice of Magic. This time the holidays are here and the same nemesis as before is back to wreak holiday mayhem. While Aunt Erma is once again in charge of her magical pie shop, nothing is quite normal in Hocus Hills. In addition to all other mischief, Susie’s “one that got away” has shown up in town creating a love triangle that is sweet and spicy.

A Slice of Christmas Magic is a short, fun holiday read that will put a smile on your face through the season.

I’m reading tonight by the fire, waiting for Santa to make his appearance and I’m wishing you all a very happy, healthy holiday!

 

Strong Women Stories: Love Heart Lane, Things You Save in a Fire and A Bittersweet Surprise

Rather than concentrate only on “thrillers,” my go-to genre, I decided to read women’s fiction, including a few light romances. What I discovered was there quite a few solidly written books in these genres that make you proud to be a woman. Although all three are very different, they each feature a strong woman at the heart of the story.

FOXGLOVE FARM – #ChristieJBarlow

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Foxglove Farm is meant to be a sweet romance. I suppose that it is – to a point. Isla and Drew are experiencing marital problems and Isla is unaware of exactly why. The man she loves is suddenly withdrawn and sullen but refuses to tell Isla why or what might be wrong. When a birthday surprise blows up in her face, she flees with her infant until she can sort out what to do. The fact is that they are having financial difficulties which Drew has not shared with Isla. He is depressed and angry at not being able to provide for his family. Together they find a way to persevere and rekindle their love for one another once more but the journey is a difficult one.

There were multiple issues that the author introduced: lies and secrets in a marriage, the difficulty of having a newborn on a marriage and, of course, male depression and mental health. While all of these are very important topics – very – at times there was just too much hardship to be believed. There was one problem after another after another in such a short period and within a relatively short story. Yes, there are those who are faced with mounting challenges and generally when it rains, it pours. However, for the good of the novel and to really explore any of these topics thoroughly, either the book needed to be longer or there should have been fewer fires. Regardless, the story itself is well told, well-written and uplifting. This is the second in a series and each set of characters is different from the last, however, I felt as though I was missing some backstory that others might have known from reading the first book in the series. I would suggest reading them in order. They are quick reads so that shouldn’t be a problem.

 

THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE – @KatherineCenter

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There has been a lot of hype and publicity for Katherine Center’s latest book: Things You Save in a Fire and there is a good reason for that – it is a wonderful book featuring a strong, interesting, intelligent woman who also is a firefighter.

When Cassie is first introduced she is receiving a medal for valor and bravery. This really isn’t something that she wants but she deserves it. She’s with her department family having a great time when she becomes aware that the person is handing out her award is someone with whom she has a traumatic past. Things do not go well after that, to the point that she is giving the choice of being fired or transferred. She takes the transfer which is back her hometown, a new station, the need to prove herself once again and to a mother with whom she has a difficult past.

Through the remainder of the book we see Cassie as she grows into the person she was meant to become – strong, capable, funny and even loving. The transformation is poignant, heartfelt, hard and very relatable. Things You Save in a Fire is one of my favorite books of the year. With impeccable writing, believable characters and a story line that is captivating and heart-felt, this is a book you will not want to miss.

A BITTERSWEET SURPRISE @CynEllingsen

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Emma loves running her family’s candy shop, creating new delicious treats and seeing her friends savour her new offerings; however, her father left the candy shop to his second wife who is selling the shop to a corporation. The only way that Emma can keep the shop is to buy out her step-mother at a higher profit than the corporation has offered her. The catch, of course, is that Emma has no extra money and very little self-esteem to think outside of the box. What she does have is loyal customers, friends whom Emma has helped over the years who are ready to return the favor and…. a mysterious painting that has hung in the candy shop since her father was alive. When a stranger makes Emma a flabbergastingly large sum of money for the artwork, Emma begins to suspect there is more to the painting than she realizes.

I absolutely loved and adored A Bittersweet Surprise. There was drama, family issues that had to be overcome but, most importantly, it illustrated how women, given the chance, can overcome obstacles in order to succeed. Emma not only has the skills necessary to be a successful business owner, she a heart that is full of gold. We see Emma as she selflessly helps the other people in her town, a homeless woman and her son, everyone she comes in contact with. She isn’t perfect but she shows what goodness means. I found myself completely immersed in Emma’s story and all of the characters in the book. A Bittersweet Surprise is the third installment of a series but it works beautifully as a stand-alone. Ellingsen uses the “shared universe” style of writing where, as readers, we are introduced to a town or setting that is common throughout the series but the characters, though they may be familiar to us, each have their own story and plot. She has done a great job introducing the characters so that you know their backstory without the need to read each book in order. I highly recommend the book and the entire series – which I’ve now read.

 

 

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Admittedly, I did not finish The Kiss Quotient but The Bride Test captured my attention for different reasons and once started, I could not put it down. It is one of the best romance, general fiction books that I’ve read in a while.

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Khai is on “the spectrum” and, while he loves his work, he has no interest in romance or marriage. His mother, however, is certain that he needs a woman in his life to make him more well-rounded and to keep him from becoming too isolated. Taking matters in her own hands, his mother finds a woman in Asia and brings her back for the summer. Esme is desperate for a different life and also wants to find her father who was in the military during the war and whom she never has met or known. Khai is furious but also amazed as Esme finds her own way in America and grows more independent.

To read this synopsis gives the impression that this is a typical romance story but it is far from typical. Esme and Khai are intriguing characters who show both depth and growth throughout the story. It is humorous, compelling and sweet but, most of all, it is a story of hope. Whether you read the first book or not, you will want to immerse yourself the lives of Esme and Khai.

@Edelweiss

Recent Reads, Rapid Reviews

As most of you know, I was off for several months due to illness and, although I couldn’t read, thought I wouldn’t read, I somehow managed TO read a lot of books. I’m also determined to do justice to those authors who sent me books to review. What this means is that I am quite behind with my reviews and I really hate to be behind at anything. Recently I read a post on the Bibliophile Book Club’s blog where she did a series of short but thorough reviews. Taking off on her idea, I will be doing the same until – if ever – I am caught up once more. Fingers crossed and thanks to the Bibliophile Book Club for such a great idea. Please be sure to check out their blog!

Recent and Rapid

MONTAUK by Nicola Harrison

By now I’m quite sure or hope that many of you have read Montauk, one of the best summer reads for 2019. It is, however, a engrossing tale that surpasses the usual summer fare making it a delight to read any time.  Set in the pre-WWII days of New York, it is the story of a woman who married “above her station” without fully comprehended all that would involve. When her husband tells that they are going to travel to Montauk for the summer, she assumes they will be there together. Sadly, she was mistaken and soon learns that not only is she alone, her husband is cheating on her with any woman who will allow it. Feeling displaced with the rich at the resort, she turns to the people who actually live in Montauk, the town, where she discovers friendship, grudging acceptance and more.

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I don’t usually read books set in the era as it is one of my least favorite times in American history. However, Montauk – the resort area – was actually envisioned and created by a developer from my home state. He built a resort here in Indiana and also developed Miami Beach, Florida. Naturally, my curiosity got the best of me. Montauk, the book, is more than just a romance or even historical fiction, it is a story of a woman trapped in the male dominated world of the early 20th century, a world full of lies, hypocrisy, misogyny and class wars. Her struggle becomes the struggle of all women from that era and one that many women today can relate to as well. The writing is brilliant, the characters come alive off of the pages and the story line is unforgettable. I highly recommend Montauk to any and all!

POLITE SOCIETY by Mahesh Rao

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Polite Society is a modern day re-telling of Emma, by Jane Austin set in India. Normally I’m not a fan of re-tellings because I like the original too much, with the possible exception of fairy tales and fables. However, because of the caste system or class structure in India, this particular version works well. The story is cleverly written with a lot of wit and charm. Sadly, for me, I didn’t enjoy Polite Society as much as I had hoped. I think there is too much feminist in me to think anything about this type of social construct is acceptable. I prefer to imagine that all of this died with the Victorian era even though my intellectual side knows differently.

THE WISDOM OF SALLY RED SHOES by Ruth Hogan

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I have been a fan of Ruth Hogan’s work since I read The Keeper of Lost Things which I loved. The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes was a quite a different story but Hogan’s flair and writing style remained constant. Two very different women come together in this story to create magic in this uplifting tale of wisdom, personal growth and grief. It touches on homelessness among women, the loss of a child, and the commonality that all women have with one another regardless of our social conditions. The characters are brilliantly written, so real you will feel as though you know them personally and the humor within keeps the story from becoming too heavy despite the subject matter. You will laugh, cry and fall in love these women and their story. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

NOTE: Many thanks to the authors, #Netgalley, #Edelweiss, #StMartinsPress, #CrookedLaneBooks for my copy of these books

The Wedding Planner by Eve Devon

Gloria, a rather sassy and bold gal with a habit of rubbing people the wrong way is determined to change her ways and get more people to like her, well… if not like her then at least not deliberately avoid her. So when her best friend asks her to help plan her wedding, Gloria immediately agrees. The drawback is her co-planner, Seth. Gloria and Seth create a tension while planning the wedding and it is all about to boil over. But is that tension anger or simmering romantic heat?

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The Wedding Planner is a light, enjoyable Rom-Com that is perfect for a summer read by the pool. While it is the third in a series of four books, the author – Eve Devon – has given us a handy character guide at the beginning so that we will know who is who, which is good because there are a lot of characters introduced and the story is told from multiple points of view.

Normally this is exactly the type of book that I enjoy as a palate cleanser between deep, dark, serious reads. However, something about the characters didn’t quite resonate with me. Even now I’m unsure if it was their personality or if it was the feeling of “been there, done that” once too often but I found myself doing quite a bit of skimming through this one and far too often for this to be a book that I would recommend to you. That said, if you really like this type of book, then maybe you can and will like these characters. It simply wasn’t for me.