My Mother’s Silence @lwestwoodwriter

Last year during the holidays, I was introduced to Lauren Westwood’s work through her novel Midnight on the Thames. It was one of my most loved books of the season and afterward I read all of the books she had written to date! You can read my review of Midnight on the Thames HERE.  This year Westwood is back with another incredible story, My Mother’s Silence. Set during the holiday season, it is a cross-genre book about family, the bonds of love, forgiveness and the power of forgiveness.

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Skye had no recollection of the night her twin sister, Ginny, died. All she was aware of was her inability to forgive herself for Ginny’s death and the belief that her mother blamed Skye for Ginny’s death as well. Fifteen years later, their mother is frail and in need of someone to be with her. Skye returns home to the secrets, the blame, the gossip of what really happened the night Ginny vanished. As Skye searches for answers to the questions her memories refuse to answer, the horrors of that night reveal secrets this family may not be able to cope with.

My Mother’s Silence is a story of three women: a mother and her twin daughters. It’s a tale of unspoken anger, resentment, jealousy but, above all, it is a story of love, forgiveness and hope. What I love most about Westwood’s writing is that she creates characters that are so realistically flawed so that we, the reader, are able to relate to them. Through their story line we come to know everything about them, including the thoughts and feelings that they would like to forget. As Skye delves into her sister’s past with the help of long forgotten journals, we see how emotionally fraught her sister was, the secrets that she was keeping from Skye and, ultimately what happened that fateful night. As Skye then attempts to deal with the lies, the whispers and betrayal, we see her emotional growth as she finally makes reconciliations with members of her family. This is a powerful, emotional, tense book through which I laughed, cried and got angry right along side Skye. Westwood, as always, drew me into their lives from the beginning and I did not stop reading until the very end – and then I wanted MORE!! And yes, this book is centered around the holidays, but it is far more about relationships than it is about the holidays. It easily could be read any time, any day of the year – and you should do just that. Now, do I really have to wait another entire year for the next fabulous book by Lauren Westwood!?

I’m so grateful to #Netgalley and #Bookoutre for my copy of  #MyMothersSilence.

 

 

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

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.

Two for Tuesday Part Two: Bridesmaids by @ZaraStoneley

cover152396-mediumA wedding you’ll never forget and a Rom-Com you won’t want to miss, Bridesmaids is the must-read, hilarious book for this summer! 

 

I fell in love with Zara Stoneley over the holidays with her fabulous book, No One Cancels Christmas, and had a feeling that I would really like her newest book, Bridesmaids. I was absolutely right, except I had no idea how much I would enjoy this delightful story and the characters involved – including the precious kitty who will steal your heart!

There are four school mates, four friends and four members of the bridal party and lots and lots of secrets. Not all of the school mates are friends with each others. Not all of them are privy to each other’s secrets and not all of them are happy for the bride to be. Now they have all come together for the hen party and wedding and what a wedding this one will turn out to be!

Jane is our protagonist around whom most of the secrets flow. Not everyone likes Jane, but it appears that everyone talks to her, although what she hears is not always what is true. Sometimes Jane interprets things according to her own conflicted past. Rachel is the bride to be and so happy that she is oblivious to much of what is swirling around her: a fiancé who has secrets of his own, Jane who is struggling after her own failed engagement, and two bridesmaids who cannot stand to be in the same room at the same time. They are Maddie and Sally – one is married to the other’s old boyfriend and the other never gave up hope of rekindling that flame. And then there is Beth – the outlier, single, new mom whose secret makes all other secrets look like child’s play. Welcome to the wedding! Enjoy the ride!

When British Rom-Coms are done well, they are witty, smart, sharp and laugh-out-loud hilarious. Bridesmaids is all of that and more! I, quite literally, found myself laughing so hard  at Jane and her friends, crying at times and then cheering for them at the end in a way that I seldom do for women’s fiction or “chick lit.” Zara Stoneley writes her books in such a way that each character has a very vivid personality and is relatable to someone that you know or have known in your life. You find yourself saying “oh yeah, I completely understand,” right along with the characters in the book. They are very real people while you are reading along with them. More importantly, though, Stoneley creates a story that is more than humorous. All of these characters are going through very complex issues in their lives from broken engagements to job insecurity to single parenthood and broken dreams. We watch as they slowly grow, come to subtle realizations about the next steps in their lives and become stronger as women – and men – so that by the end of the book you are as happy as they are with the way things turned out for their lives. It does have a happy ending although, wow, I wasn’t sure we ever would get these gals to that point!

If you loved Stoneley’s holiday tale or are looking for a delightful, heart-warming summer read, then this is the perfect choice for you. I absolutely adored it!

Thanks so much to #Netgalley, @HarperImpulse and #ZaraStoneley for my copy of #Bridesmaids. amazon

 

Happy Valentine’s Day – Crazy Cupid Love! @Amanda_Heger

When a single arrow inspires romance, can you really trust happily ever after?

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Crazy Cupid Love is the first book in a new series, “Let’s Get Mythical,” and, seriously, who can resist all of that word play!? Not me! This is exactly the fun, whimsical story I was searching for to read this holiday! The storyline is utterly charming, where Eros’ descendants are now living among us mere mortals and blending in as matchmakers as we swipe left or right. Eliza Hermann, aka the world’s worst Cupid, has spent her entire life trying to run from the family business – that helping couples find their true love. Liza is an Erosian (a descendant of Eros, the Greek God of Love and Desire) and one of the most powerful Cupids there is. Because of this she has had mishaps all of her life merely by bumping into the wrong person. It’s been quite a problem for her – and her family. Now, however, with the business in trouble,( there’s a lot of cynicism in today’s world and Cupids aren’t exactly on everyone’s favorite list,) and with her father in the hospital recovering from a heart attack, Liza has to renew her Cupid’s license and give match-making a try once again. That is easier said than accomplished, especially when her enchantments begin to fail and cause an outbreak of hate and bickering rather than love.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. This sounds a little fanciful, a tad bit whimsical but isn’t that what love and Valentine’s day is all about? Yes, it is. The story itself is actually very good. It is based on the Greek myth of Eros and the supporting characters, the Fates and Furies, Discords and more, all are authentically based in actual Greek mythological tales. There is a wonderful tie-in with modern artificial intelligence and how it will affect human relationships and love, an underlying romance between Liza and her childhood crush who has moved back and a pretty good mystery regarding the reverse enchantments as well.

I love mythology, from Ovid’s Metamorphosis to Neil Gaiman’s  Norse Mythology. I also adore fairy tale re-creations and Crazy Cupid Love beautifully marries the premise of these all into one delightful book. If you like mythology or fairy tales or even quirky romances, then you will love Crazy Cupid Love.  Regardless, from Macsbooks and The Wisteria House, have a lovely Valentine’s Day!

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The Christmas Forest #RebeccaBoxall

SIX WEEKS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!

The countdown continues with the Twelve Books of Christmas started in October. We now are down to SIX, just SIX, weeks until the big day!!  I absolutely love all of the terrific holiday books that are out there this year and I hope you are too! Last year, which really was the first year that I actually read a lot of holiday books, I came across author Rebecca Boxall. I fell in love with her 2017 book, Christmas on the Coast, and immediately had to go back and read her previous year’s offerings, Christmas at the Vicarage and Home for Winter. All of these were well told, beautiful stories set during the holidays but heartwarming tales for all year. This year, Boxall is back with her newest novella, The Christmas Forest.

Enid lives in a charming coastal town next door to her sister, Bess, in matching “Christmas” cottages where they have lived, side by side, since their parent’s tragic death. Enid has Asperger’s Syndrome which interferes with a person’s ability to “socialize” in a neuro-typical manner but, otherwise, they generally are quite brilliant and nearly always talented in some fashion or another. Through a holiday card exchange, Enid has met Fred who lives in Australia. Fred also has recently lost her mother, for whom he was the sole care-giver as she battled Multiple Sclerosis. Through writing and talking on the phone, the two have formed a bond that they believe is ready for the next step – Enid travelling to Australia to meet Fred in person. However, it is extremely difficult for someone with Asperger’s to trust – people, airplanes, strangers in general – and it is even more difficult for them to be “trapped” in a plane. But Enid believes that she is ready – until everything goes to hell in a hand-basket at the airport! Will these two ever be able to overcome the obstacles to be together?

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I admit that I loved the story from start to finish and, because it is a novella, that only took an afternoon! While the writing itself is not as taut as with her previous novels, I found the characters to more than make up for that. Perhaps it is because I am part of a  family that has lived with MS and other auto-immune diseases and have a son with Asperger’s, I totally and completely related to Enid and a young boy, Dan, as well as Fred, who cared for his mother. They charmed me with their humor, had me crying with their set-backs and made me grin like a Cheshire cat in the end. And that is exactly what a good cozy novel is supposed to do! I loved this story and I hope will too!

I was thrilled to receive an advanced copy of The Christmas Forest from #Netgalley, especially since I have been anxiously waiting for this book since last Christmas! Thanks also to #RebeccaBoxall and @AmazonPublishingUK !

Moonlight on the Thames @lwestwoodwriter

SundayWhat a marvelous Serendipity Sunday! The weather is perfect, chilly and gorgeous and I discovered a new author whose book is as delightful as my Midwestern weather!

I admit that when I first looked at Moonlight on the Thames, I assumed it would be another cozy holiday story – and it is that – except there is far more to this book than first impressions would lead you to believe!

51A4XdE0tNLMoonlight on the Thames by Lauren Westwood is an intriguing tale of two star crossed strangers who meet by chance at Waterloo Station. Dimitri, formerly of Russia, is leading a “pop up choir” in a round of carols to entertain the passengers as they change trains. Nicola is a corporate star who in the middle of a bit of a romantic crisis with a co-worker and has no time to waste on the holidays, much less carolers in the middle of the station. As she makes a scene in front of everyone, she comes face to face with Dimitri and she is, at once, enchanted – as is he. But this pair brings with them a lifetime of baggage overflowing with abuse that neither has been able to entirely cope with. It’s the holidays and it will take a holiday miracle to bring these two together.

Miracle on the Thames is beautifully written, whose characters are fully dimensional and enchanting. Dimitri has suffered so much abuse in his lifetime that it appears impossible for him to love again or faith in people. As a former rising star in the music world, Nicola melts his hardened exterior to allow the music to flow from scarred hands once more. Nicola, through Dimitri’s kindness for his fellow man, his hope and his music, feels herself beginning to have emotions that she thought she never would experience again. All of this is told with such  incredible empathy that I literally cried with pain and joy throughout its telling. Through the use of a Russian fable, Firebird, and through the music – which you can listen to via a special link, Dimitri and Nicola’s story unfolds in beautiful, lyrical prose. It an astonishing read, especially for someone who was expecting a “cosy romance.”

I highly recommend Moonlight on the Thames and hope you will make time for it this season.

Thank you so much to Lauren Westwood for my copy of Moonlight on the Thames. This was my first book by Westwood, it will not be my last!

I love serendipitous discoveries! Is there something in your world that has been a pleasant discovery this week – a book, a song, something of a surprise? I’d love to hear about it!

The Little Book Café: Amy’s Story @Georgiawrites #GeorgiaHill

Georgia Hill is back with another installment in her series, The Little Book Café, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

cover151173-mediumHill features a different character in each of her books. This time it is Amy’s Story. We were first introduced to Amy in book one where she was being mistreated by the book’s main character, Tash. I identified at once with Amy who has an overbearing, often very cruel mother who spends her time belittling her daughter’s very existence. Amy was left at the alter and her self-esteem is, quite nearly, non-existent. She runs the bookshop that is attached to the bakery in her town and has made quite a success of the shop and her small book club. When a new author comes to town to write his next book, Amy doesn’t dare allow herself to have feelings for him, this charming, beautiful Irish man; but, fates just might have other ideas for Amy.

The Little Book Café is a delightful series, full of quick wit, extremely relatable characters and situations that are utterly identifiable. It is a very short book, as are each of the books in the series, and will actually leave you wanting to know more about Amy and her friends in Berecomb. This is a good sign for me – when I want to read more, know more, experience more from a book and its characters. Naturally, after reading Amy’s Story, I had to go back and read the first two books in the series and they were equally fun and witty! This book is set in autumn and is a perfect read for this time of year as we are nestled between Halloween and Christmas stories. It also can be perfectly read as a stand alone – but I promise you will want to read them all! This is the perfect story when you have just a little bit of time and want something uplifting and happy to read! Go ahead, enjoy!

Thanks so much to #Netgalley, @HarperImpulse and to Georgia Hill for my copy of #TheLittleBookCafeAmysStory!

 

Someone Else’s Shoe @SofiaEllisBooks

Admittedly I am not a romance reader nor do I read “chick-lit.” However, there are times when I enjoy a good love story and when it has humor – that is even better! Someone Else’s Shoes has both!

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There simply are times when the world is too much, the news too depressing and books are too maudlin. When this happens for me, I turn to books that will make me laugh, make me smile, give me hope. Sofia Ellis has created such a book with Someone Else’s Shoes. 

Millie Morgan, an ex-pat of sorts living in Singapore, had a perfect life, perfect job and a perfect boyfriend. A series of “unfortunate events” left her broke, single and working in a dead-end job with people that she feels she barely knows. When she gets a “summons” to The Sharp Agency, Millie’s life begins to slowly turn around. She is able to see her life and her situation in a different light and, perhaps, just maybe, she will be given the fresh start she has been hoping for.

While the storyline itself is lite and one that we’ve come to know in romance stories, the telling of it is surprisingly novel and different. Millie’s character is flawed but in a way that we all are flawed. Her family, overbearing and cold, actually are extremely realistic – in a very wealthy sort of way – and eventually become quite likeable. What I loved most about all of it is that I found myself laughing out loud – a lot! That just never happens to me, not with books, movies, even in real life. The fact is that Ellis, as an author, is actually quite funny and that was very fresh and unexpected. Which is why I put this into the Rom-Com category rather than romance. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that left me happy and smiling at the end.

Sofia Ellis is a relatively new author and certainly she is new to me. She has three books published in this genre, all of which can be purchased at Amazon. If like romance, chick-lit, rom-coms or just happy, amusing stories, then Someone Else’s Shoes is for you. I highly recommend it!

Thank you, Sofia, for this delightful book!