The Neighbours by Nicola Gill: Happy Pub Day!

In this era of “ageism” it is wonderful to see a book about two women with roughly two decades of difference in their ages come together in a celebration of friendship.

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Ginny is a thirty-something woman who is struggling with her place in life. She feels unfilled in her job but has no idea how to get a different and better one. When she walks in on her live-in boyfriend shagging her boss – in Cassie’s own apartment – she is forced into looking at life from a different, jobless perspective. She is good at what she does – marketing and PR – but she isn’t always on her game when it comes to job interviews.

Her neighbor, Cassie, is a fifty-something, well known actress who, sadly, has sabotaged her career over time with her boorish behavior, uncensored mouth and worse. She desperately needs an agent or PR consultant to help her get her life back in gear but no one will touch her, not even with a ten foot pole!

Cassie talks Ginny into helping and soon the two realize, well, they have absolutely nothing in common and barely can tolerate one another. As they work together, however, they realize that one doesn’t always have to have similarity as a foundation upon which to build a great friendship. Both of these women learn from one another, help each other turn their weaknesses into strength and, ultimately, they form a beautiful friendship.

The Neighbours is a humorous, witty look at relationships of all types and illustrates how each of us have something to offer to one another, despite our differences. And yes, in today’s world where differences are highlighted and maligned, it is a joy to see how our lack of sameness can be a strength. This is a wonderful, well written story of friendship that is perfect for readers of all genres.

Many thanks to #Netgalley, #AvonBooksUK, #AvonBooks for my copy of The Neighbours on sale today!

 

 

#LongBrightRiver by Liz Moore

Let me begin by saying that I have no doubt that Long Bright River will end up in my Top Ten Favorite Books for 2020. It really is that good.

Having said that, you may notice that I’m day late and always a dollar short with this review. I KNEW I had read the book. I thought I had written my review but I couldn’t find either one any where. After reading the review from Two Sisters Lost in a Coulee (review here) I was even more confused! I searched and searched and looked and looked and TA DA!!!!!! I didn’t “download” the book! The publisher was so incredibly kind enough to send me a copy (yes, I know this is the sign of hoarding) But what about my review!?!  After a lot of technical geek talk with WP, I discovered that I have about 20 reviews that got “backlogged” over the holidays and never, ever got published. It happened when I switched themes. So, sadly, now I have to swamp you with reviews BUT I have found the missing ones that were driving me crazy. Okay…. back to this fabulous book!!!!

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Long Bright River is women’s fiction disguised as a thriller or the other way around but really it is just an amazingly well written novel about two sisters who have had one helluva a hard life. Told in alternating time lines, we learn about the difficult lives of Mickey and Kacey whose parents were addicts and who died when the girls were young. Forced to live with a grandmother who made it pointedly clear that she resented having to raise them (and we wonder how the parents turned out bad, right?) the girls soon find themselves in trouble. However, Mickey soon joins an after school program and later becomes a cop while Kacey gets in with the wrong crowd and becomes a sex worker. When these workers begin to go missing and later are found dead, Mickey’s boss at the precinct really doesn’t care. After all, they’re just sex workers. But when Kacey also goes missing, Mickey decides to find out what is going on and what has happened to her sister.

That summary in no way does justice to this magnificent book. It was heartbreaking to read about their lives and it would have been easier if I thought for one minute that it was exaggerated, but I know better. This is the reality of far too many people all across the US. This is a story that, yes, is a thriller and will keep you in suspense until the end. But even more so, it is the story of dysfunctional families, families who need help and simply are not getting it. Children who need help and are falling through the proverbial cracks. This is a powerful story, a gripping wonderful, perfect for today’s society novel that truly is a 2020 must read!

Thank you to @LizMooreBooks and @RiverheadBooks for my copy of this incredible novel!

 

 

Big Lies in a Small Town #DianeChamberlain

Pendleton, Indiana – population 4,000 on a good day, maybe. I never dreamed I would live in a small town. Actually, I thought my city of 60000 was a small town. How wrong I was. Adapting to the habits of these towns, actions embedded for centuries, can be daunting. Diane Chamberlain has captured these nuances, the whispers and innuendo, perfectly in her newest book Big Lies in a Small Town.

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Morgan Christopher is serving time for a crime she didn’t commit, putting her dreams of being an artist into limbo until a mysterious visitor shows up at the prison offering her a chance for freedom and a job she cannot refuse.

The concept of the book is gripping from its opening pages and keeps you hooked until the very end. It is a mystery within a mystery with its dual timeline, set in both the present, with Morgan’s and her mysterious benefactor, and the past with the artist and the painting whose work Morgan has been hired to restore. This is very much a story of two women whose lives have been altered by fate and the town in which they are living, by lies, rumors and mental illness. It is a story of redemption for one in the present timeline and redemption of the other through her work.

I’m new to Chamberlain’s work, unsure how I survived for so long without reading it and I’m grateful to whomever pointed out her to writing to me. She is a beautiful story teller who has a gift for bringing words to life. Her characters are extremely authentic, women we know and whom we come to care about deeply. In this instance, I immediately walked down to my historical post office to see if we had one of the commissioned paintings on the wall. And, yes, there it was. How had I never noticed it there before!? Now I look at it every time I go in side and think of the artists who painted these wonderful reflections of nation’s past. Big Lies in a Small Town is a beautiful story and one I highly recommend to readers of cross genres. It’s a work of fiction that defies specific classification.

Thank you to @Netgalley D_Chamberlain and @StMartinsPress for my copy of this amazing book!

 

 

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

 

 

An Everyday Hero @LauraTrentham

I was SO not expecting to like this book, An Everyday Hero. Like the main character, I’ve had enough of endless, mindless wars. I’m a Colonel’s wife and an Air Force brat and I have been faced with its horrors for far too long. I assumed that this book would be another sappy, propagandist piece of tripe. Let me assure you and loudly admit – I was WRONG!

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From award-winning author Laura Trentham comes an emotionally layered novel about redemption, second chances and discovering that life is worth fighting for.

Greer Hadley is like so many young women with dreams of stardom and stars in their eyes. She set off for Nashville with a golden voice and hope as big as the ocean. However, after years of trying for that “big break” and being left with nothing except anxiety disorder, she heads home to a place she swore she would never return. After a bar crawl, she is ordered to do community service which just happens to be a music as therapy center. There Greer comes in contact with people who will change her life: a young teen with a huge chip on her shoulder named Ally and a wounded vet who is battling demons that may be to large for he or Greer to handle. What happens within the story is a beautiful unfolding of drama, hope, second chances and the will to rise up from the ashes.

Trentham is a master storyteller whose gift of prose shines throughout this book. There are so many opportunities for the story to turn cheesy and into a Hallmark moment, but she deftly guides the story line back to reality. I don’t read books about military personnel because that is a life I’ve lived for far too long but An Everyday Hero struck a chord so deep within me that I could not put down the book from its beginning to its end. It has three very strong, realistic, well developed characters with whom I connected and wanted to know more about. Their stories are compelling and I know you will love them as much as I did.

An Everyday Hero is slated to be published in February. It’s well worth putting on your TBR list now.

@Netgalley #StMartinsPress @StMartinsPress

Harlequin Winter Blog Tour: Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin

I’m truly excited to bring you another feature today for the Harlequin Winter Blog Tour. I’ve calculated that if I continue to do 2-3 reviews a day for the next 100 days, I just might be caught up by SUMMER!  UGH!  I can read so much quicker than I can write. 😦   BUT – Rebecca Raisin is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors so this post is extra special. You may recall that I read, reviewed and LOVED her book, “Rosie’s Traveling Tea Shop” (review HERE) but that is simply my favorite among many of her books that I’ve read. Now added to that list of faves is “Little Bookshop on the Seine.” I mean, who doesn’t love a story set in both Paris and a bookstore!?

Sarah owns her own little bookstore in a small town across the street from her best friend’s cafe. Readers of Rebecca Raisin will recognize many of the characters in Little Bookshop, but this is Sarah’s story and the first in the Paris series. Sarah loves her store, her books are more like family than “real people.” She has a handsome boyfriend who travels all over the world and Sarah is feeling a bit of that wanderlust herself. Her life has become a bit too predictable. When her online friend in Paris suggests a store swap, Sarah jumps at the chance, not really comprehending what she is getting herself into. The fast paced life of a Parisian bookstore is a far cry from her very laid back store in Ashford. Will Sarah be able to cut it or will she run back home to the safety of home and her friends?

I absolutely adored Sarah’s story. That feeling of restlessness is something of which I am very familiar. I wanted her to be stronger, get it together quicker, but as the story unfolds, we are able to see that Sarah is growing and maturing in very wonderful ways. This is more than just another cute cosy. As with so many of Raisin’s books, we see how women can rise to occasion when necessary and that within each of us is a strength we can call upon when needed. I highly recommend Little Bookshop on the Seine and, although it takes place around the holidays, it is not a holiday book. It is a marvelous introduction to a new series that is sure to be a great one.

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Rebecca Raisin is a true bibliophile.

This love of books morphed into the desire to write them. She’s been widely published in various short story anthologies, and in fiction magazines, and is now focusing on writing romance. The only downfall about writing about gorgeous men who have brains as well as brawn, is falling in love with them – just as well they’re fictional. Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships, and most importantly, believe in true love.

Thank you to #HarlequinPublishing and Rebecca Raisin @jaxandwillsmum for my copy of this wonderful book!

You can Little Bookshop on the Seine at the following booksellers:

Harlequin 

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble 

Books-A-Million

Target

Walmart

Google

iBooks

Kobo

 

 

Husband Material #EmilyBelden #BlogTour

I have to tell you up front that this book is absolutely nothing at all about what I thought it would be! And that, my reading friends, is a good thing! Based on the provided excerpts alone, I assumed that this would be a RomCom, Chick-Lit lite, toss away book to read between the more serious books that I was consuming. I could not have been more wrong!

It is such an honor to be part of the Harlequin Winter Blog Tour featuring Husband Material by Emily Bolden.

Charlotte is a very young, too young, widow is who hides her grief – and her widowhood – in humor. Not even her flatmate is aware that she was previously married until her husband’s ashes arrive at their apartment. What ensues is a story that is filled with humor, yes, but so much more. Husband Material is about friendships, seeking answers, finding the truth and discovering second chances. Bolden has a sharp, witty humor that shines throughout this charming tale, but it serves to lighten an otherwise darker topic and, therein, lies the beauty of Husband Material. This is a fabulous story of hope, one that I would love for you all to read.

EXCERPT:

I’ve conducted some research that has shown that after the age of thirty, it becomes exponentially harder to find your future husband. What number constitutes exponentially? I’m not sure yet, but I’m working on narrowing in on that because generalities don’t really cut it for me. Thinking through things logically like this centers me, calms me, and resets me—no matter what life throws my way. All that’s to say, I’m officially in my last good year of dating (and my last year of not having to include a night serum in my skin care regimen), and I’m determined not to wind up with my dog, my roommate, and a few low-maintenance houseplants as my sole life partners.

“Tackling thorny questions of widowhood and dating after trauma, Belden’s second novel is witty, full of heart, and blindingly au courant. Packed with pop-culture references, it will appeal to fans of Sophie Kinsella, Rosie Walsh, and Plum Sykes. Belden writes twists and turns to keep readers hooked.” Booklist

Harlequin: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781525805981_husband-material.html

Amazon: https://amzn.to/35gMxcA

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/husband-material-emily-belden/1129908343?ean=9781525805981#/

Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781525805981

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/husband-material-12

Autho photo_Emily Belden_finalEMILY BELDEN is a journalist, social media marketer, and storyteller. She is the author of the novel Hot Mess and Eightysixed: A Memoir about Unforgettable Men, Mistakes, and Meals. She lives in Chicago. Visit her website at http://www.emilybelden.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @emilybelden.

Many thanks to Harlequin and @emilybelden for my copy of this marvelous book!

My Favorite Books of this Decade…

I’ve loved reading all of the blogs that have listed the “best books of the decade.” Everyone is so different and unique and the included books say as much about the person as they do about the decade of reading and publishing. I’ve decided to go with my favorites that were actually published from 2010 to the present. I also debated the number I would include finally ended up at plus/minus THIRTY. Choosing a favorite book is much like choosing a favorite child, it cannot be done. These, from various genres, resonated with me for one reason or another. I’ve included links to Amazon for each if you’d like to read one or two of them. Also, because there are so many, I’m dividing them up into two posts. LOL. My attention span is small this time of year and I assume that’s the same for most of you as well.

2010-2019 Favorite Published Works:

1. Little Darlings by Melanie Golding. This was a somewhat controversial book with many readers either loving or hating it. I, however, cannot stop thinking about this little bit of horror. A tale of a woman who truly believes her newborn has been taken and switched with another baby, a changeling. She has proof but it all can be explained away with logical reasoning – or can it. When she ultimately tries to drown “the changeling,” she is institutionalized. It’s a profound story either full of horror and paranormal activity OR one of the best books I’ve read about postnatal depression.

2. Night Film by Marisha Pessel. Wow! Before Night Film I read very light reading such as women’s lit, mild crime-fi like Kathy Reichs. This book was my first foray into the darkness, the noir that lies in the world of fiction. After this there was no turning back. I was a noir reader forever.

3. The Good Detective  by John McMahon (see my review HERE)

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The Good Detective was a book I expected to NOT like. Instead, it has become the high bar against which all other Crime-Fi books that I read are judged. An extremely flawed detective, a great sidekick who is a strong woman of color, exposing the horrors of the southern US and crimes based on true stories. Put all of those together in an amazingly well written thriller and you have a winner.

4. The Fourth Monkey by J D Barker  – I was going to include a link to my review and realized it was published before I had my blog. Geesh, time really does pass quickly. To say that I loved The Fourth Monkey is a huge understatement. I told everyone I know about this book, bought it for friends and family and still think about it all of the time. Yes, there was a lot of gruesome material. No, I didn’t care for the sequels nearly as much as this one but this one was at the top of its game and one of the very best pieces of crime fiction I’ve ever read.

5. I read a lot more historical fiction over the past years, more than I have since my university days in fact. There are some terrific books in this genre and the authors go above and beyond when it comes to research, research and more research. I tend to fact check a lot of books as I read and I’m always stunned by how much I learn from historical fiction. To that end, I have a few favorites from this decade beginning with House of Gold by Natasha Solomons (MY REVIEW) This is a sweeping saga that follows the story an Austrian heiress leading up to and during WWII. She is an Austrian who marries an Englishman and ultimately has to choose between her new family and her old. Generally I don’t read books set during WWII because they are very one sided. History is told from the winner’s perspective but House of Gold includes minor story lines from all of the Gold family which is scattered throughout the various countries involved in the war from England to Germany to Austria and across Europe. Most importantly, not since books about the Vietnam War have I read such realistic, horrific descriptions of the war itself. There were places where brother literally was fighting against brother to the death. This is a book that I will not forget for a long time, if ever.

6. Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris. Oh My. This was one highly emotional read based on a photograph that the author discovered of children with a “for sale” on them. You know already that it’s going to be heart-wrenching. Set in the Great Depression, a reporter/photographer snaps a photo of these children and then sets out to find out who they were and what led to the circumstances of their being sold. I read the author’s notes on the selling of children and then did my own background research and was so dismayed to discover that this was not a unique occurrence. Single women, particularly, who could not afford to take care of their children often sold them to families who wanted work hands. These were kids, not teens or young adults, but kids. It’s a horrible time in our history and a story that I encourage you all to read so that, perhaps, we can learn from our past sins.

7. Coptown by Karin Slaughter, a stand alone historical fiction novel. Karin Slaughter is one of “must read” authors. I love both of the series that she wrote and is writing but, a huge but, of everything she has written Coptown is the book that has stayed with me, made me really think about our racial divide, especially in the south and, most importantly, how far women’s rights have come just since the 70s. Although I came of age in the 70s, it never occurred to me the rights that I take for granted like having a checking account in my own name. This book, while fiction, is one of the best portrayals of women, especially women of color, in an era that seems like it was only yesterday. In reviews I often write the sentence, “yeah, but have you read Coptown….” because it was one of those books that set the standard for historical fiction.

8. Fast Falls the Night by Julia Keller – This is the book I talk about the most to anyone who will listen. While I adore Julia Keller and her characters, part of the reason that I feel like they are “family,” is because of this book. Set in a period of 24 hours – exactly – this is the story of a struggling town in West Virginia that broke the record for most the overdose deaths of the opioid crisis we are facing today. Based on true facts, in this story we watched as characters we have come to know either die or watch their loved ones die in a harsh, realistic look at just how pervasive this epidemic truly is in the US. Doctors, politicians, addicts, politicians, church family, ALL are affected. We often live in a sheltered world assuming that this epidemic does not affect us. Fast Falls the Night changes this town forever and we get a glimpse of how it would affect each and everyone of us should it happen in our own towns – if it hasn’t already happened in yours.

9/10. Because I’m a historian, I like to read the occasional historical biography. Over this decade there two that really stood out for me: Hoover and Grant. Grant by Ron Chernow was an eye-opening read about one of the most misunderstood and chronically lied about men in US History. Cast as a loser, a drunk, a bad general, this biography sets the story straight. The research is impeccable and tells the story of a recovered alcoholic, a devout man who hated war, hated fighting and yet, along with Gen. Sherman, conducted a military campaign that is still taught at West Point. Generals world wide have come to the US to study the genius of these two men. The civil war is over and it’s time to recognize the brilliance of the men who bravely fought to keep the US Union together as one.

Likewise, Hoover has been blamed for “the Great Depression,” as if one man could be responsible for worldwide famine, poverty and circumstances beyond anyone’s control. The entire world was in a depression, one NOT caused by Herbert Hoover. More importantly, the work Hoover did after the war is phenomenal. The airlifts from Poland where the survivors literally were starving in the streets are a result of Herbert Hoover’s work. He was an amazing man who should be admired and not vilified. Herbert Hoover by Glen Jeansonne a must-read for anyone who enjoys American history.

In the FANTASY category, or perhaps they are more paranormal and magical realism, I honestly never know. For me, fiction is just fiction.

11. Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – okay, seriously, I loved this book from start to finish but it really didn’t occur to me until nearly the end that this was fantasy and not reality. I think that should tell you something about me and my love of the fictional world. This is a beautiful book, a fairy tale of sorts, about survival, the magic all around us and of believing in the impossible. It is, by far, my favorite book by Gaiman

12. Where the Forest Meets the Sky by Glendy Vanderlah – This is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. The story of a child who wanders into the lives of two people who need this child the most. They are broken, faced with debilitating illnesses and this child, who claims to be from another planet, brings these adults back to life, figuratively, as they care for him and try to unravel the child’s story. A stunningly written book that I’m so glad found its way into my world.

13.The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor – simply put, it is based on a true story, one that will have you believing in fairies by the end of the book. If you haven’t read The Cottingly Secret, which is part paranormal, part historical fiction, then I truly encourage you to do so. The magic is real. 51wvP7ALclL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Thirteen is my lucky number so I will stop here for this post. Stay tuned for PART 2 tomorrow…. In the meantime, tell me which ones you’ve read. Were any of these on your favorites list for the decade? What was your favorite book this decade OR this year? Can you name just one?

 

 

Rewrite the Stars by #EmmaHeatherington

Rewrite the Stars is a beautiful story of love, loss and fate-vs-self determination. It has a holiday setting through the years but is perfect reading for anytime.

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Charlotte, Charlie, loves music and loves to write music. She falls in love with the drummer of her brother’s band but her brother is determined to keep them apart. Over the years they are thrown back together again but never quite make the connection with one another. Tragedies occur in both of their lives altering their dreams and hopes. When they finally meet again we are asked if it is too late or can we “rewrite destiny” and create our own fate.

The story is simply written, flows beautifully from start to finish and is perfect for readers of multiple genres.

 

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.