Tag: family

Book Review:  A Place to Land, by Lauren K. Denton

Image belongs to Harper Muse.

Title: A Place to Land    
Author:   Lauren K. Denton
Genre: Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

A hidden past isn’t past at all.

Violet Figg and her sister Trudy have lived a quiet life in Sugar Bend ever since a night forty years ago stole Trudy’s voice and cemented Violet’s role as Trudy’s fierce and loyal protector. Now, Trudy spends her days making sculptures from found objects and speaking via notes written on scraps of paper, while Violet runs their art shop, monitors the bird activity up and down the water, and tries not to think of her one great love she gave up in order to keep her sister safe.

Eighteen-year-old Maya knows where everyone else belongs, but she’s been searching for her own place ever since her grandmother died seven years ago. Moving in and out of strangers’ houses has left her exhausted, so when she sees a flyer on a gas station window for a place called Sugar Bend, she follows the strange pull she feels and finds herself on the doorstep of an art shop called Two Sisters.

When a boat rises to the surface of Little River in the middle of the night, the present and the no-longer-buried past clash, and the future is at stake for Maya, Violet, and Trudy. As history creeps continually closer to the present and old secrets come to light, the sisters must decide if it’s time to face the truth of what happened forty years ago, or risk losing each other and newly formed bonds with those they’ve come to love.

I loved this book!   Parts of it are very sad—what Violet and Trudy went through 40 years ago and what Violet had to give up—but the entire story was so immersive and lovely. Lauren K. Denton makes small-town life sound appealing, verging on wonderful. The characters, as always for this author, are fascinating and believable, and the reader just feels at home in the story.

Lauren K. Denton is a bestselling author. A Place to Land is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harper Muse in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:   The Winners, by Fredrik Backman

Image belongs to Atria Books.

TitleThe Winners     
Author: Fredrik Backman   
Genre: Fiction   
Rating:  5 out of 5

Two years have passed since the events that no one wants to think about. Everyone has tried to move on, but there’s something about this place that prevents it. The residents continue to grapple with life’s big questions: What is a family? What is a community? And what, if anything, are we willing to sacrifice in order to protect them?

As the locals of Beartown struggle to overcome the past, great change is on the horizon. Someone is coming home after a long time away. Someone will be laid to rest. Someone will fall in love, someone will try to fix their marriage, and someone will do anything to save their children. Someone will submit to hate, someone will fight, and someone will grab a gun and walk towards the ice rink.

So what are the residents of Beartown willing to sacrifice for their home?

This book. I was up until 2 a.m. finishing it, if that tells you anything. Beartown took me completely by surprise. I don’t really care about hockey, and small towns usually give me the creeps, but it was my first introduction to Backman’s writing and I was blown away. Us Against You was the same experience, and so was The Winners.

I loved these characters and was completely enthralled by the story. Even the seemingly minor characters are compelling in the hands of a master storyteller like this. He is so, so good at creating believable characters that you care about and feel like you’ve met. I’m not super thrilled by what happened to one of my favorite characters, but I laughed, cried, and was in turn awed by the occasional absolutely perfect sentence that truly captured the moment. Go read this.

Fredrik Backman is a bestselling author. The Winners is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Spells for Forgetting, by Adrienne Young

Image belongs to Random House/Ballantine.

Title: Spells for Forgetting      
Author:  Adrienne Young  
Genre: mystery, fantasy   
Rating:  5 out of 5

Emery Blackwood’s life changed forever the night her best friend was found dead and the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her. Years later, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence on the misty, remote shores of Saoirse Island and running the family’s business, Blackwood’s Tea Shoppe Herbal Tonics & Tea Leaf Readings.

But when the island, rooted in folklore and magic, begins to show signs of strange happenings, Emery knows that something is coming. The morning she wakes to find that every single tree on Saoirse has turned color in a single night, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that the town has tried desperately to forget.

August knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night everything changed. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from his past that has never healed—Emery.

The town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises spanning generations threaten to reveal the truth behind Lily’s mysterious death once and for all.

This book was absolutely engrossing! Young’s writing always draws me in immediately, and this was no exception. Her writing is atmospheric, and Saoirse Island definitely has a vivid and memorable atmosphere. I’m not sure what to say about this novel. It was a compelling read and also quite dark, with only a few glimmers of hope in the darkness, but everything was so vibrant I experienced it right along with Emery.

Adrienne Young is a bestselling author. Spells for Forgetting is her newest novel. (Galley courtesy of Random House/Ballantine in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:   The Girl from Guernica, by Karen Robards

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleThe Girl from Guernica     
Author:   Karen Robards
Genre:  Historical fiction  
Rating:  5 out of 5

On an April day in 1937, the sky opens and fire rains down upon the small Spanish town of Guernica. Seventeen-year-old Sibi and her family are caught up in the horror. Griff, an American military attaché, pulls Sibi from the wreckage, and it’s only the first time he saves her life in a span of hours. When Germany claims no involvement in the attack, insisting the Spanish Republic was responsible, Griff guides Sibi to lie to Nazi officials. If she or her sisters reveal that they saw planes bearing swastikas, the gestapo will silence them—by any means necessary.

As war begins to rage across Europe, Sibi joins the underground resistance, secretly exchanging information with Griff. But as the scope of Germany’s ambitions becomes clear, maintaining the facade of a Nazi-sympathizer becomes ever more difficult. And as Sibi is drawn deeper into a web of secrets, she must find a way to outwit an enemy that threatens to decimate her family once and for all.  

I was hooked on this from the very first page! All the characters were so vivid and so believable, and the author did such a great job with them that I felt like I was right there with Sibi through everything, grieving and struggling and determined to do what was right—no matter what. I cannot recommend this highly enough!

Karen Robards is a bestselling author. The Girl from Guernica is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:   Our Little World, by Karen Winn

Image belongs to Penguin Group Dutton.

TitleOur Little World     
Author:  Karen Winn  
Genre:  Fiction  
Rating:  3.8 out of 5

July 1985. It’s a normal, sweltering New Jersey summer for soon-to-be seventh grader Bee Kocsis. Her thoughts center only on sunny days spent at Deer Chase Lake, evenings chasing fireflies around her cul-de-sac with the neighborhood kids, and Max, the boy who just moved in across the street. That and the burgeoning worry that she’ll never be as special as her younger sister, Audrina, who seems to effortlessly dazzle wherever she goes.

But when Max’s little sister, Sally, goes missing at the lake, Bee’s long-held illusion of stability is shattered in an instant. As the families in her close-knit community turn inward, suspicious, and protective, things in Bee’s own home become increasingly strained, most of all with Audrina, when a shameful secret surfaces. With everything changed, Bee and Audrina’s already-fraught sisterhood is pushed to the limit as they grow up–and apart–in the wake of an innocence lost too soon.

This was definitely not a light and fluffy read. I found it pretty dark. Part of that could be that my younger brother was diagnosed with type one diabetes in 1988—about two years after Drina was—and the issues Drina had with her disease felt so, so familiar. Even leaving that out, Bee is not a happy narrator, and I felt that on every page.

Karen Winn lives in Boston. Our Little World is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Penguin Group Dutton in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Bend Toward the Sun, by Jen Devon

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleBend Toward the Sun    
Author:  Jen Devon  
Genre:   Romance
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Rowan McKinnon doesn’t believe in love. With a botany PhD, two best friends who embrace her social quirkiness, and some occasional no-strings sex, she has everything she needs. But she hides deep wounds from the past—from a negligent mother, and a fiancé who treated her like a pawn in a game. When an academic setback leads Rowan to take on the restoration of an abandoned vineyard, she relishes the opportunity to restore the grapes to their former glory.

She does not expect to meet a man like Harrison Brady.

An obstetrician profoundly struggling after losing a patient, Harry no longer believes he is capable of keeping people safe. Reeling, Harry leaves Los Angeles to emotionally recover at his parents’ new vineyard in Pennsylvania.

He does not expect to meet a woman like Rowan McKinnon.

As their combative banter gives way to a simmering tension, sunlight begins to crack through the darkness smothering Harry’s soul. He’s compelled to explore the undeniable pull between them. And after a lifetime of protecting herself from feeling anything, for anyone, Rowan tries to keep things casual.

But even she can’t ignore their explosive connection.

Rowan was a little challenging for me to like at times, just because she was so self-focused and really couldn’t be bothered to try to understand what Harry is going through. I loved the family dynamics in this—I’d definitely read anything written about them—as well as the friendship between Rowan and her two best friends. The vivid supporting characters made this a wonderful read, and Harry was pretty great, too. Sign me up to live at a vineyard and work with plants!

Jen Devon lives in Ohio. Bend Toward the Sun is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Hello, Goodbye, by Kate Stollenwerck

Image belongs to SparkPress.

TitleHello, Goodbye    
Author: Kate Stollenwerck
Genre:   YA
Rating:  5.0 out of 5

Fifteen-year-old Hailey Rogers is sure her summer is ruined when her parents force her to spend a few days a week helping her grandmother, Gigi. Although she only lives across town, she never sees her grandmother and knows little about her. But Gigi is full of surprises–and family secrets. Throw in the gorgeous boy down the street, and Hailey’s ruined summer might just be the best of her life.

Then tragedy strikes, lies are uncovered, and Hailey’s life suddenly falls apart. After unearthing clues in an old letter written by her great-grandfather, she takes off on a road trip to solve the family mystery with the only person she can trust. In a forgotten Texas town, the past and the present collide–and Hailey is forced to choose what she truly values in life.

I loved this! I think Hailey is a great character, and I loved seeing how her mind works and how she changed through the course of this book. The family dynamics were intriguing, and I really wanted to know what was going on with Gigi. I enjoyed the Beatles obsession—and the car. I just thoroughly enjoyed this from the very first page.

Kate Stollenwerck lives in Florida. Hello, Goodbye is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of SparkPress in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Codebreaker’s Secret, by Sara Ackerman

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleThe Codebreaker’s Secret    
Author:  Sara Ackerman
Genre: Historical fiction  
Rating:  4.8 out of 5

1943. As war in the Pacific rages on, Isabel Cooper and her codebreaker colleagues huddle in “the dungeon” at Station HYPO in Pearl Harbor, deciphering secrets plucked from the airwaves in a race to bring down the enemy. Isabel has only one wish: to avenge her brother’s death. But she soon finds life has other plans when she meets his best friend, a hotshot pilot with secrets of his own.

1965. Fledgling journalist Lu Freitas comes home to Hawai’i to cover the grand opening of the glamorous Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Rockefeller’s newest and grandest project. When a high-profile guest goes missing, Lu forms an unlikely alliance with an intimidating veteran photographer to unravel the mystery. The two make a shocking discovery that stirs up memories and uncovers an explosive secret from the war days. A secret that only a codebreaker can crack.

I’ve really enjoyed all of Ackerman’s books that I’ve read, and this was no exception. A fascinating look at the codebreakers from World War II—and something I had basically no knowledge about prior to this. I loved both storylines equally—which is unusual for me—and I was fully invested in all the characters. The writing is excellent and I did not want to put this down!

Sara Ackerman is from Hawaii. The Codebreaker’s Secret is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Accomplished, by Amanda Quain

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Accomplished   
Author:   Amanda Quain
Genre:   YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

 It is a truth universally acknowledged that Georgiana Darcy should have been expelled after The Incident with Wickham Foster last year – at least if you ask any of her Pemberley Academy classmates. She may have escaped expulsion because of her family name, but she didn’t escape the disappointment of her big brother Fitz, the scorn of the entire school, or, it turns out, Wickham’s influence.

But she’s back for her junior year, and she needs to prove to everyone—Fitz, Wickham, her former friends, and maybe even herself—that she’s more than just an embarrassment to the family name. How hard can it be to become the Perfect Darcy? All she has to do is:

– Rebuild her reputation with the marching band (even if it kills her)

– Forget about Wickham and his lies (no matter how tempting they still are), and

– Distract Fitz Darcy—helicopter-sibling extraordinaire—by getting him to fall in love with his classmate, Lizzie Bennet (this one might be difficult…)

Sure, it’s a complicated plan, but so is being a Darcy. With the help of her fellow bandmate, Avery, matchmaking ideas lifted straight from her favorite fanfics, and a whole lot of pancakes, Georgie is going to see every one of her plans through. But when the weight of being the Perfect Darcy comes crashing down, Georgie will have to find her own way before she loses everything permanently—including the one guy who sees her for who she really is.

I completely enjoyed this story! Sure, Georgie’s lingering obsession with Wickham was more than a little annoying, but I loved seeing how she grew and changed as she learned to stand on her own two feet. In the end this was a fun read—and I think Austen would have enjoyed it, too.

Amanda Quain lives in Pennsylvania. Accomplished is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Paradise Girls, by Sandy Gingras

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Paradise Girls   
Author: Sandy Gingras  
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

Mary Valley is in a funk. She’s a writer for home magazines, but she’s lost touch with what home means. Her life seems meaningless. The last house she wrote about was a gazillion-dollar mansion with a moat! Plus, she’s estranged from her daughter, CC and granddaughter, Larkin and mired in a dead-end relationship with her boss.

Daniel is a man adrift since his son Timmy was killed in Afghanistan. He’s living on a houseboat in Florida with Timmy’s three-legged dog, Tripod and taking tourists out on fishing charters. But his life is on the edge. He’s painting his houseboat black, and he can’t stop thinking about “getting lost at sea.”

When Mary’s boss tells her he’s spending Christmas with his ex, she books a trip with her family to The Low Key Inn, a hotel on the edge of the Everglades. But things go wrong from the get-go. CC bails out of the vacation, and Mary is stuck with an unhappy Larkin. The hotel is dated and down-on-its-luck, and perhaps its owner is a witch. Then Mary meets Daniel, casts a hook into his head and wrecks his boat.

I think Ollie was probably my favorite character in this story! I actually enjoyed this quite a bit. Mary is so klutzy and accident-prone that it made me laugh, and Larkin was adorable. I wasn’t a big fan of CC, but I did like Daniel. And, frankly, the Low Key Inn sounds completely wonderful and charming and I want to go right now.

Sandy Gingras is an award-winning author. Paradise Girls is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)