#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!

 

 

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!

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.

 

 

A Life of Their Own by Pauline Tait

I am a huge fan of Pauline Tait’s series for children, The Fairy in the Kettle, and I could not wait to read her first “adult” book, A Life of Their Own.

Kate is on the run from an abusive husband. She and her two kids are quietly leaving him and moving across the country to place she had only dreamed of – Colorado. She has no plan, no idea how they will survive but she knows she has to get herself and the kids away from the abuse. She arrives at a guest home run by an older couple who treats them as family instead of guests. It is the first sign of kindness in a very long time for Kate. She also runs into an old flame who never stopped loving her. Soon, she is working for him and living on his ranch. But will Kate ever truly get over the abuse and the scars it has left on her.

A Life of Their Own is a sweet, very short book about hope and the healing power of love. I enjoyed reading it and the story itself kept my attention until the end. However, there were a few concerns that I had. The language is very dated. If this had been a piece of historical fiction or set in a different country other than the US, I might have understood. But Americans no longer speak in this stilted, very formal style of English. For example, I cannot remember the last time – if ever – a mother has referred to her kids as children. They’re kids as in “hey kids, let’s go” not “children we must leave.” There were multiple examples of British phrases used that are not used in the US. I had to look up what a “fleece” was because the mother bought two of them for the kids. (It’s a type of jacket) and, while I know what “tuck in” means in the UK, if you told an American sitting at a table to “tuck in,” they would get up and go to bed. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE British writers but if a book is going to be set in the US then it would be great if the author knew a bit more about American lifestyles and slang.

The bottom line is that A Life of Their Own is very sweet romance and if you can turn off that inner questioning voice, you will enjoy it. I did enjoy it. I just saw the flaws as well.

I received my copy of A Life of Their Own from #Netgalley

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