Tag: friends

Book Review: The Children’s Secret, by Nina Monroe 

Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title:   The Children’s Secret

Author:   Nina Monroe

Genre:   Mystery/thriller

Rating:  3 out of 5

Nothing ever happens in a sleepy town like Middlebrook. Until the residents are shaken to their core, when one hot Saturday afternoon, at a back-to-school party, nine children sneak into a barn…and only eight come out unharmed.

The press immediately starts asking questions. What type of parents let their children play unsupervised in a house with guns? What kind of child pulls the trigger on their friend? And most importantly: of the nine children who were present in that barn, which one actually pulled the trigger, and why are the others staying silent?

This was a well-written book, but most of the adult characters were barely tolerable—and Priscilla was horrible. I didn’t like the characters; I didn’t like that only one viewpoint was presented as “right”—that seems very narrow-minded for such a supposedly diverse community—and I didn’t appreciate the bias evident on every single page. Which is really too bad, as the basic plot was interesting, even if none of the supposed revelations were surprising in the least.

Nina Monroe was born in Germany, grew up in England, and now lives in New Hampshire. The Children’s Secret is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: A Bright Young Thing, by Brianne Moore

Image belongs to Alcove Press.

In 1931 England, Astra Davies defies all the conventions. Clever, witty, and determined, Astra smokes, drinks, plays a mean piano, and gallivants around London with her beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. But Astra finds herself in a tight spot when her parents die suddenly, leaving her with a raft of debts. With few marketable skills and a closet full of family secrets, Astra has two choices: find a rich husband or make her own way.

A fiercely driven woman like Astra is not about to cast her lot in with a man, especially out of desperation. And since the only man she fancies–Jeremy Harris, the Earl of Dunreaven–is as hard up as she is, her way forward is clear. But the path to independence is a bumpy one fraught with hazards and heartbreaking choices. A blackmailing socialite threatens to derail Astra’s reputation. A brainless business partner just might drive her even further into debt. And a series of bruising scandals dogs her every step of the way.

From the bustle of London to the country estates of the aristocracy, Astra embarks on a journey that tests her brains, wit, and mettle as never before. But one way or another, Astra Davies is dead set on proving she’s no ordinary Bright Young Thing.

I really enjoyed this read! Astra’s character growth was fantastic to watch. Her friend’s sister, however, was evil and vindictive, and I just couldn’t stand her at all. It seemed like Astra just keep getting slammed with more and more obstacles, but she persevered and learned from them, letting them make her stronger instead of destroying her.

Brianne Moore is from Pennsylvania but now lives in Scotland. A Bright Young Thing is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Book Review: Beware the Mermaids, by Carrie Talick

Image belongs to Alcove Press.

Hermosa Beach housewife Nancy Hadley is no pushover. So when her philandering husband, Roger, is caught in flagrante with an opportunistic widow on their racing sailboat, Nancy sticks it to him. She tells him she wants a divorce–with the sailboat, Bucephalus, part of the deal, too.

Roger would rather make Nancy’s life a living hell than give up his boat. But Nancy has other plans. After moving out of their opulent home, she and her posse of girlfriends invest in a racing boat of their own to live on, and she teaches them the fine points of sailing. Meanwhile, and unbeknownst to Nancy, a big real estate development is under way that would destroy her beloved harbor and new home. When scheming Roger returns to ask Nancy to help capture the last committee vote–held by Nancy’s old college friend–Nancy prepares for battle.

Nancy is not skittish about taking a few risks, so in a bold gambit, she makes a bet with Roger: a showdown in the thrilling Border Dash Race from Newport Harbor down to Ensenada, Mexico. The winner of the race will get everything they want.

Can we talk about how much I didn’t like Roger? Seriously. Total jerk—and he deserved everything he got. I really enjoyed the female friendships and the unique setting. Nancy definitely has guts, and I loved how she realized her own strength—and her supportive group of friends (and family). This was a fun read full of pure pleasure!

Carrie Talick lives in California. Beware the Mermaids is her newest novel.

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

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 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 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: The Summer of Lost and Found, by Mary Alice Monroe

Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title The Summer of Lost and Found
AuthorMary Alice Monroe
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

The coming of Spring usually means renewal, but for Linnea Rutledge, Spring 2020 threatens stagnation. Linnea faces another layoff, this time from the aquarium she adores. For her—and her family—finances, emotions, and health teeter at the brink. To complicate matters, her new love interest, Gordon, struggles to return to the Isle of Palms from England. Meanwhile, her old flame, John, turns up from California and is quarantining next door. She tries to ignore him, but when he sends her plaintive notes in the form of paper airplanes, old sparks ignite. When Gordon at last reaches the island, Linnea wonders—is it possible to love two men at the same time?

Love in the time of coronavirus proves challenging, at times humorous, and ever changing. Relationships are redefined, friendships made and broken, and marriages tested. As the weeks turn to months, and another sea turtle season comes to a close, Linnea and the Rutledge family continue to face their challenges with the strength, faith, and commitment that has inspired readers for decades.

I’m thinking this wasn’t a good fit for me. I enjoyed the previous book in this series and the discussion of the environmental issues, but this one, the characters just came across as self-absorbed and superficial. Linnea has a lot of angst, but not much action. The blurb emphasizes finances “teetering on the brink” but that wasn’t a thing:  despite Linnea (and her roommate) not having a job or savings, they never seemed to be concerned about money. This book just wasn’t believable to me.

Mary Alice Monroe is a bestselling author. The Summer of Lost and Found is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Secrets We Left Behind, by Soraya M. Lane

Image belongs to Lake Union Publishing.

TitleThe Secrets We Left Behind
AuthorSoraya M. Lane
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Occupied France, 1940. When the staff at a field hospital draw straws to find out who will join the evacuation from Dunkirk, Nurse Cate is left behind. But when the Nazis arrive to claim prisoners of war, she takes her chance and flees into the night, taking one patient with her.

Fifty miles away, the surrendering soldiers of the Royal Norfolk Regiment are shot dead by the advancing Germans. Beneath the pile of bodies two men survive, crawling to the safety of a nearby farmhouse, where sisters Elise and Adelaide risk their lives to take them in. When Cate, too, arrives at their door with her injured soldier, the pressure mounts.

The sisters are risking everything to keep their visitors safe. But with the Nazis coming ever closer and relationships in the farmhouse intensifying, they must all question the sacrifices they are willing to make for the lives of others. How far will they go for family, friendship, and love?

I enjoyed this read! I liked the characters a lot, and they were realistic and people to root for. Except maybe Adelaide, who I kind of wanted to smack in the back of the head. I was never sure how this was going to turn out, so it wasn’t predictable to me, and the writing was excellent, with a setting that I enjoyed reading more about.

Soraya M. Lane lives in New Zealand. The Secrets We Left Behind is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: Talk Bookish to Me, by Kate Bromley

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

TitleTalk Bookish to Me
AuthorKate Bromley
Genre:  Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 

Kara Sullivan’s life is full of love—albeit fictional. As a bestselling romance novelist and influential bookstagrammer, she’s fine with getting her happily-ever-after fix between the covers of a book.

But right now? Not only is Kara’s best friend getting married next week—which means big wedding stress—but the deadline for her next novel is looming, and she hasn’t written a single word. The last thing she needs is for her infuriating first love, Ryan Thompson, to suddenly appear in the wedding party. But Ryan’s unexpected arrival sparks a creative awakening in Kara that inspires the steamy historical romance she desperately needs to deliver.

With her wedding duties intensifying, her deadline getting closer by the second and her bills not paying themselves, Kara knows there’s only one way for her to finish her book and to give her characters the ever-after they deserve. But can she embrace the unlikely, ruggedly handsome muse—who pushes every one of her buttons—to save the wedding, her career and, just maybe, write her own happy ending?

The level of snark and witty back-and-forth in this novel was fantastic, and I truly loved Kara. Her friendships and her relationship with her family made her a well-rounded character that I enjoyed reading. Ryan…not so much. His personality was a bit too over-the-top for me, and what he did was unforgivable in my eyes. But that’s just me. This was a really fun read.

Kate Bromley was a preschool teacher. Talk Bookish To Me is her debut novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Summer Seekers, by Sarah Morgan

Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

TitleThe Summer Seekers
AuthorSarah Morgan
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Kathleen is eighty years old. After she has a run-in with an intruder, her daughter wants her to move into a residential home. But she’s not having any of it. What she craves—what she needs—is adventure.

Liza is drowning in the daily stress of family life. The last thing she needs is her mother jetting off on a wild holiday, making Liza long for a solo summer of her own.

Martha is having a quarter-life crisis. Unemployed, unloved and uninspired, she just can’t get her life together. But she knows something has to change.

When Martha sees Kathleen’s advertisement for a driver and companion to share an epic road trip across America with, she decides this job might be the answer to her prayers. She’s not the world’s best driver, but anything has to be better than living with her parents. And traveling with a stranger? No problem. Anyway, how much trouble can one eighty-year-old woman be?

As these women embark on the journey of a lifetime, they all discover it’s never too late to start over…

I loved this read! Kathleen was so much fun:  I want to be just like her when I’m 80. Liza’s struggle to find herself again was so relatable and Marth doesn’t even know who she wants to be, but both their journeys were relatable and engrossing. This is the perfect light and inspiring read that will make you want to take a summer road trip—or reinvent yourself. Highly recommend!

Sarah Morgan is a bestselling author. The Summer Seekers is her newest novel.

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