Tag: family

Book Review: A Cup of Silver Linings, by Karen Hawkins

Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Ava Dove—the sixth of seven daughters of the famed Dove family, and owner of Ava’s Landscaping and Specialty Gourmet Tea—is frantic.

Just as she is getting ready to open her fabulous new tearoom, her herbal teas have gone wonky. Suddenly, the tea that is supposed to help people sleep is startling them awake with vivid dreams; the tea that infuses romance back into tired marriages is causing people to blurt out their darkest secrets; and the tea that helps people find happiness is making them spend hours staring into mirrors.

Meanwhile, living four doors down the road from Ava, sixteen-year-old Kristen Foster’s life has just crashed down around her. After her mother’s death, Kristen’s grandmother Ellen has arrived in town to sweep Kristen off to a white mansion on a hill in distant Raleigh. But Kristen has had enough ‘life changes’ and is desperate to stay with her friends in her beloved hometown of Dove Pond. But to do so means Kristen must undertake a quest she’s been avoiding her entire life—finding her never-been-there-for-her father.

With the help of an ancient herbal remedy book found in her attic by her sister, Ava realizes that Kristen holds the key to fixing her unstable tea leaves. So Ava throws herself into Kristen’s search, even convincing Kristen’s grandmother Ellen to help, too. Together, the three embark on a reluctant but magical journey of healing, friendship, and family that will delight fans of Alice Hoffman, Kate Morton, and Sarah Addison Allen.

I’ve really enjoyed both books in the Dove Pond series. The setting is so charming, and the characters are distinct and likable, drawing you into their adventures on the very first page. The Dove sisters are both quirky and relatable, and I can’t wait to meet their other sisters as the series continues. Ellen was totally unlikable to start with, but she grew and changed throughout the story, just as Ava herself did. This was a sweet, enjoyable read, perfect for curling up with a cup of hot tea and immersing yourself in it!

Karen Hawkins is a New York Times-bestselling author. A Cup of Silver Linings is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Lights of Sugarberry Cove, by Heather Webber

Image belongs to Macmillan-Tor/Forge.

Sadie Way Scott has been avoiding her family and hometown of Sugarberry Cove, Alabama, since she nearly drowned in the lake just outside her mother’s B&B. Eight years later, Sadie is the host of a much-loved show about southern cooking and family, but despite her success, she wonders why she was saved. What is she supposed to do?

Sadie’s sister, Leala Clare, is still haunted by the guilt she feels over the night her sister almost died. Now, at a crossroads in her marriage, Leala has everything she ever thought she wanted–so why is she so unhappy?

When their mother suffers a minor heart attack just before Sugarberry Cove’s famous water lantern festival, the two sisters come home to run the inn while she recovers. It’s the last place either of them wants to be, but with a little help from the inn’s quirky guests, the sisters may come to terms with their strained relationships, accept the past, and rediscover a little lake magic.

I enjoyed the magical realism in this story! The miscommunication/lack of communication between the characters causes all sorts of problems, but I really enjoyed the B&B setting and how the family worked out all their issues finally. This was a sweet, fun read, perfect for a summer weekend—especially at the lake.

Heather Webber lives new Cincinnati, Ohio. The Lights of Sugarberry Cove is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan-Tor/Forge in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The One You’re With, by Lauren K. Denton

Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

High-school sweethearts Mac and Edie Swan lead a seemingly picture-perfect life in the sleepy-sweet community of Oak Hill, near Mobile, Alabama. Edie is a respected interior designer, Mac is a beloved pediatrician, and they have two great kids and a historic home on tree-lined Linden Avenue. From the outside, the Swan family is the definition of “the good life.” And life is good—mostly. Until a young woman walks into Mac’s office one day. A young woman whose very existence threatens all Mac and Edie have built and all they think they know about each other.

Nineteen years after a summer apart, with a family and established lives and careers, the past that Mac and Edie thought they left behind has come back to greet them. For the first time, constants in their lives are called into question: their roles as parents, their reputation as upstanding members of the community, and the very foundations of their marriage. As they wade through the upheaval in both their family and professional lives, they must each examine choices they made long ago and chart a new course for their future.

I love Lauren K. Denton’s novels and always look forward to their release, so I was excited to read this. I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as her others. Excellent writing and characters, but Edie’s over-the-top reaction to the past really didn’t sit well with me.

She and Mac were broken up that summer. She doesn’t have any right to be angry about what he did—I can understand the hurt, but to be so furious and unforgiving when she was keeping secrets of her own that same summer is hypocritical at best. Considering her anger was the main thread running through the novel, this was a pretty big problem for me. I kept thinking “Get over yourself. You did the same thing, and now you’re mad at him?”                                                    

Lauren K. Denton is a bestselling author. The One You’re With is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Lady Sunshine, by Amy Mason Doan

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title Lady Sunshine
AuthorAmy Mason Doan
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

ONE ICONIC FAMILY. ONE SUMMER OF SECRETS. THE DAZZLING SPIRIT OF 1970S CALIFORNIA.

For Jackie Pierce, everything changed the summer of 1979, when she spent three months of infinite freedom at her bohemian uncle’s sprawling estate on the California coast. As musicians, artists, and free spirits gathered at The Sandcastle for the season in pursuit of inspiration and communal living, Jackie and her cousin Willa fell into a fast friendship, testing their limits along the rocky beach and in the wild woods… until the summer abruptly ended in tragedy, and Willa silently slipped away into the night.

Twenty years later, Jackie unexpectedly inherits The Sandcastle and returns to the iconic estate for a short visit to ready it for sale. But she reluctantly extends her stay when she learns that, before her death, her estranged aunt had promised an up-and-coming producer he could record a tribute album to her late uncle at the property’s studio. As her musical guests bring the place to life again with their sun-drenched beach days and late-night bonfires, Jackie begins to notice startling parallels to that summer long ago. And when a piece of the past resurfaces and sparks new questions about Willa’s disappearance, Jackie must discover if the dark secret she’s kept ever since is even the truth at all.

This book was unexpected. That’s the only adjective I can think of to describe it. Parts of it are lyrical, parts are sad, parts are just plain magical. Excellent, vibrant writing—I can practically watch events unfolding in my imagination as the narrative switches between present-day events and those of the past. I highly recommend this!

Amy Mason Doan grew up in California. Lady Sunshine is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Tragedy of Dane Riley, by Kat Spears

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Dane Riley’s grasp on reality is slipping, and he’s not sure that he cares. While his mother has moved on after his father’s death, Dane desperately misses the man who made Dane feel okay to be himself. He can’t stand his mother’s boyfriend, or the boyfriend’s son, whose favorite pastime is tormenting Dane. Then there’s the girl next door: Dane can’t quite define their relationship, and he doesn’t know if he’s got the courage to leave the friend zone.

Dane is an interesting character! He’s sad, but he’s so thoughtful and introspective about everything—and, while I don’t necessarily agree with some of his conclusions, I can see where they make sense to him, in the middle of the shadows where he is.

His mother comes across as clueless and insensitive, but I loved the reveal about her boyfriend. I like Ophelia, too, but she and Dane were both totally oblivious to each other’s interest, which was frustrating. I have to say, I didn’t care for the ending. It left things feeling unresolved, so that was definitely not a plus, but this book dealt with depression and grief in a way that draws the reader into Dane’s head, so they can understand exactly how he’s feeling.

Kat Spears thinks being a teenager sucked, so now she writes about it. The Tragedy of Dane Riley is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The House Guests, by Emilie Richards

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleThe House Guests

AuthorEmilie Richards

Genre:  Fiction

Rating:  4.5 out of 5

In the wake of her husband’s sudden death, Cassie Costas finds her relationship with her teenage stepdaughter unraveling. After their move to historic Tarpon Springs, Florida, Savannah hates her new town, her school and most of all her stepmom, whom she blames for her father’s death. Cassie has enough to contend with as she searches for answers about the man she shared a life with, including why all their savings have disappeared.

When Savannah’s rebellion culminates in an act that leaves single mother Amber Blair and her sixteen-year-old son homeless, Cassie empathizes with the woman’s predicament and invites the strangers to move in. As their lives intertwine, Cassie realizes that Amber is hiding something. She’s evasive about her past, but the fear in her eyes tells a darker story. Cassie wonders what the woman living under her roof is running from…and what will happen if it finally catches up to her.

This book wasn’t what I expected—in a good way! I enjoyed both Cassie’s and Amber’s viewpoints and stories, but I found Savannah more than a touch annoyingly selfish and oblivious (although there was character growth, thankfully). The friendship that developed between the two women was believable and realistic—no insta-best friends here.

The unraveling of the two mysteries was well-done, leaving the reader intrigued and curious, with no dumping of information to overwhelm the senses. I think the best part of the story was the Greek family and culture layered in, not to mention the descriptions of food. The author juggled all the different plotlines fantastically, bringing them all together into one tidy and fascinating package.

Emilie Richards is a bestselling author from Florida. The House Guests is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Warsaw Orphan, by Kelly Rimmer

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

TitleThe Warsaw Orphan
Author Kelly Rimmer
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

In the spring of 1942, young Elzbieta Rabinek is aware of the swiftly growing discord just beyond the courtyard of her comfortable Warsaw home. She has no fondness for the Germans who patrol her streets and impose their curfews, but has never given much thought to what goes on behind the walls that contain her Jewish neighbors. She knows all too well about German brutality–and that it’s the reason she must conceal her true identity. But in befriending Sara, a nurse who shares her apartment floor, Elzbieta makes a discovery that propels her into a dangerous world of deception and heroism.

Using Sara’s credentials to smuggle children out of the ghetto brings Elzbieta face-to-face with the reality of the war behind its walls, and to the plight of the Gorka family, who must make the impossible decision to give up their newborn daughter or watch her starve. For Roman Gorka, this final injustice stirs him to rebellion with a zeal not even his newfound love for Elzbieta can suppress. But his recklessness brings unwanted attention to Sara’s cause, unwittingly putting Elzbieta and her family in harm’s way until one violent act threatens to destroy their chance at freedom forever.

I’ve read a number of books about World War II, but I’m not sure I’ve ever read one set in Warsaw. With the different points-of-view, the reader sees what life is like inside the ghetto, but what it looks like outside the ghetto, too. This was an engrossing read, and although not a light or happy one, there were some glimmers of light peeking through.

I recommend this read, for illustrating a slightly different aspect of the World War II tragedy. The characters are believable and I was invested in what happened to them and how they learned and grew from their experiences.

Kelly Rimmer is a bestselling author. The Warsaw Orphan is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Stepsisters, by Susan Mallery

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleThe Stepsisters
AuthorSusan Mallery
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating:  3.8 out of 5

Once upon a time, when her dad married Sage’s mom, Daisy was thrilled to get a bright and shiny new sister. But Sage was beautiful and popular, everything Daisy was not, and she made sure Daisy knew it.

Sage didn’t have Daisy’s smarts—she had to go back a grade to enroll in the fancy rich-kid school. So she used her popularity as a weapon, putting Daisy down to elevate herself. After the divorce, the stepsisters’ rivalry continued until the final, improbable straw: Daisy married Sage’s first love, and Sage fled California.

Eighteen years, two kids and one troubled marriage later, Daisy never expects—or wants—to see Sage again. But when the little sister they have in common needs them both, they put aside their differences to care for Cassidy. As long-buried truths are revealed, no one is more surprised than they when friendship blossoms.

Their fragile truce is threatened by one careless act that could have devastating consequences. They could turn their backs on each other again…or they could learn to forgive once and for all and finally become true sisters of the heart.

I’m actually kind of surprised I finished reading this. The rather dramatic opening scene was solid, but I took an almost instant dislike to Sage, which took a while to turn into acceptance. I didn’t care for Cassidy at all. She was too whiny and dramatic for me.

I liked Daisy and sympathized with her struggles, but I can see how growing up with her would have been difficult. She always has to be right and watching her being doted on by her father probably wasn’t easy to take, either. Sage’s “careless act” was more of a “deliberate and ruthless act” than anything and would be almost impossible for anyone to forgive, much less someone she had such a tenuous family relationship with.

Susan Mallery is a bestselling author. The Stepsisters is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Legends of the North Cascades, by Jonathan Evison

Image belongs to Algonquin Books.

TitleLegends of the North Cascades
AuthorJonathan Evison
Genre:  Fiction        
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Dave Cartwright is already living on the edge, with a blue collar job he hates that barely pays the bills, a house on the verge of foreclosure, a failing marriage, and the recurring memories of three tours in Iraq. His only bright spot is his sometimes too-wise daughter, Bella, who sees and understands much beyond her years. When the unthinkable occurs, Dave makes a seemingly over-the-top decision to move with Bella to a cave in the wilderness. As they embark on this compelling and challenging backcountry adventure, Bella’s reality takes an unforeseen turn, retreating into the ancient world of a mother and son who lived in the cave thousands of years ago at the end of the last Ice Age. What unfolds amidst the struggle to survive is a meditation on both the perils of isolation and the human need for connection.

I’m not 100% sure what I think about this book. Excellent writing and the setting was vivid and vibrant, but…honestly, I finished the book and thought “What was the point?” I felt sympathy for Dave and his struggles—and I actually agree with him about wanting to shut the world out because of the toxicity and hate—but we didn’t get to see his moment of epiphany.

The ending was very abrupt, and I didn’t even care if Dave lived or died. I cared about Bella, yes, but what was the point of her flashbacks into the ancient past? Why did they even happen—and how? No answers, sadly.

Jonathan Evison is a bestselling author. Legends of the North Cascades is his newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: You Will Remember Me, by Hannah Mary McKinnon

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleYou Will Remember Me
AuthorHannah Mary McKinnon
Genre:  Mystery/thriller
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Forget the truth.

Remember the lies.

He wakes up on a deserted beach in Maryland with a gash on his head and wearing only swim trunks. He can’t remember who he is. Everything—his identity, his life, his loved ones—has been replaced by a dizzying fog of uncertainty. But returning to his Maine hometown in search of the truth uncovers more questions than answers.

Lily Reid thinks she knows her boyfriend, Jack. Until he goes missing one night, and her frantic search reveals that he’s been lying to her since they met, desperate to escape a dark past he’d purposely left behind.

Maya Scott has been trying to find her estranged stepbrother, Asher, since he disappeared without a trace. Having him back, missing memory and all, feels like a miracle. But with a mutual history full of devastating secrets, how far will Maya go to ensure she alone takes them to the grave?

I feel like it’s usually kind of pointless to read a mystery or thriller where you already know who the culprit is. That being said, I never had much doubt who, exactly, was the bad guy in this story. With the multiple POVs in this story, there wasn’t much hidden about that—and sometimes the author was pretty heavy-handed about it as well.

I also feel like an author makes certain promises to the reader with the setup of a novel, and, frankly, I felt like the author broke those promises with the ending. That may just be me, but I doubt I’ll ever read anything from this author again.

Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK and lives in Canada. You Will Remember Me is her newest novel.

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