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

Coming Home for Christmas

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

Jane Anonymous @LaurieStolarz

WOW! If ever there was a book that should be summed up by that one word it is Jane Anonymous. From the first word of the prologue to the last letter in the book, I was fully engrossed and utterly captivated. Not once did I look up, stop for a break; I’m not sure I even breathed until I finished. It.Is.That.Good. Need more? Fine.

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The prologue is an open to letter to us, the readers, from “Jane” who has just returned from being held captive for seven months by a monster. Jane was taken one early morning by a man who vaguely looked familiar, put into a room and given a scoresheet from which she would be rewarded for simple things like eating, bathing, putting her trash out the pet door. That sounds far more simple than it was for the prisoner Jane who rebelled against her captivity by not eating, not bathing, not cleaning. But she is not alone. There is someone else on the other side of the wall. Someone who shares her darkness, her fears, someone she comes to love. But what if that someone goes away…. what if he isn’t real or worse.

Jane’s story is written in a then/now perspective as though Jane is writing her story for you as part of her therapy. We are able to read first hand her innermost thoughts, fears, hopes and crushing anxiety as she navigates back through the world of the free and living. This is a heart-pounding, gut-wrenching tale that dives into our deepest emotions and will leave you breathlessly ragged when you have finished but it so worth it! Yes, this book is written for young adults but don’t let that fool you. It is, by far, one of the best books I have read in a very long time. Just as SE Hinton wrote for this age group in the 70s with words that resonated across the age spectrum, Jane Anonymous will translate well for readers of all ages.

#StMartin’sPress @WednesdayBooks @netgalley #LaurieFariaStolarz

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!

Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman

War is hell. I often find that reading books about war is the same. I do my best to avoid them. The premise of Paris Never Leaves You is that it was post WWII, however, that isn’t totally accurate. Set in a dual timeline, the story alternates between the 1950s in NYC where we find Charlotte and her daughter living post-war and the 1940s in France and what Charlotte had to do to survive the war to get to that point. Charlotte lives with the guilt as so many survivors do.

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In the past year there have been numerous books set during WWII, many of which were based on a one sided view of what happened during the war. After all, how books about the Russians during WWII have you read? It was a traumatic awful time for those in France particularly and most of the books reflect that. Paris Never Leaves You is the same. I found myself skimming pages more often than not and this is a very short book so there were not a lot of pages to skim. I never fully connected to the characters, didn’t really care about them. I suspect that reflects more on me than the book itself. However, there are tremendously well written books that deal with the war and the people who endured it. I just don’t think Paris Never Leaves You is one of those books.

Let It Snow #SueMoorcroft

No, seriously, please Let It Snow!! It’s far too warm here in the midwest and we need our snow for the crops in the spring.  While I’m waiting for the snow that is forecast for later in the week, I’ve been re-reading Let It Snow by one of my very favorite authors, Sue Moorcroft. Published earlier this year and set during the holidays, now is the perfect time to read this delightful tale.

Let-it-Snow

For Lily, family is everything. She has two loving moms and a sister, Zinnia who have been her world. Told that her birth father was a one night stand, Lily is shocked to discover he actually was married at the time and more than just a fling her mother had one night. Now Lily is determined to find her father on a journey that will take her to our favorite Moorcroft town, Middledip, and on a road trip to Switzerland for a holiday market and more.

There always IS more with a Moorcroft book which is why I adore her so very much. Secondary story lines often become my favorite parts of her stories and this one is no different. While there is a romance, of course, the romance isn’t the primary focus of the book – Lily’s journey of discovery, the tangled family webs that go with blended families and the “fall out” from finding siblings no one knew of until adulthood. With creative writing, well developed characters and a road trip through Europe, Moorcroft has, once again, created people and places that are unforgettable.

This is a great winter read, one I’m sure you will enjoy. I have – twice over!