Tag: friends

Book Review:  Love & Saffron, by Kim Fay

Image belongs to Penguin Group Putnam.

Title:   Love & Saffron
Author:   Kim Fay
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

When twenty-seven-year-old Joan Bergstrom sends a fan letter–as well as a gift of saffron–to fifty-nine-year-old Imogen Fortier, a life-changing friendship begins. Joan lives in Los Angeles and is just starting out as a writer for the newspaper food pages. Imogen lives on Camano Island outside Seattle, writing a monthly column for a Pacific Northwest magazine, and while she can hunt elk and dig for clams, she’s never tasted fresh garlic–exotic fare in the Northwest of the sixties. As the two women commune through their letters, they build a closeness that sustains them through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the unexpected in their own lives.

 Food and a good life–they can’t be separated. It is a discovery the women share, not only with each other, but with the men in their lives. Because of her correspondence with Joan, Imogen’s decades-long marriage blossoms into something new and exciting, and in turn, Joan learns that true love does not always come in the form we expect it to. Into this beautiful, intimate world comes the ultimate test of Joan and Imogen’s friendship–a test that summons their unconditional trust in each other.

I enjoyed this short novel told almost exclusively in letters. The growing friendship between Joan and Imogen is sweet and uplifting as the women’s lives both change and evolve. They inspire each other as they go through major life changes, and despite their differences, their love for each other continues to grow.

Kim Fay lives in L.A. Love & Saffron is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  The Bright Side Running Club, by Josie Lloyd

Image belongs to Alcove Press

Title:   The Bright Side Running Club
Author:   Josie Lloyd
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

When Keira first receives her breast cancer diagnosis, she never expects to end up joining a running group with three women she’s only just met. Totally blind-sided, all she can think about is how she doesn’t want to tell her family or step back from work. Nor does she want to be part of a group of fellow cancer patients. Cancer is not her club.

 And yet it’s running – hot, sweaty, lycra-clad running in the company of brilliant, funny women all going through treatment – that unexpectedly gives Keira the hope she so urgently needs. Because Keira will not be defined by the C-word. And now, with the Bright Side Running Club cheering her on, she is going to reclaim everything: her family, her identity, and her life.

 One step at a time.

 I enjoyed this book so much! I loved Keira as a character, and I loved all the secondary characters as well (except her horrible coworkers). Her journey was both terrible and inspiring as she deals with a terrifying diagnosis and the treatment that isn’t much better. I loved how much she learned about herself and the people in her life, and I’ll admit the book brought me to tears a time or two. I highly recommend!

Josie Lloyd is from Brighton. The Bright Side Running Club is her newest novel.

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

 

Book Review:  The Last Dance of the Debutante, by Julia Kelly

Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:   The Last Dance of the Debutante
Author:   Julia Kelly
Genre:   Historical fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

When it’s announced that 1958 will be the last year debutantes are to be presented at court, thousands of eager mothers and hopeful daughters flood the palace with letters seeking the year’s most coveted invitation: a chance for their daughters to curtsey to the young Queen Elizabeth and officially come out into society.

 In an effort to appease her traditional mother, aspiring university student Lily Nichols agrees to become a debutante and do the Season, a glittering and grueling string of countless balls and cocktail parties. In doing so, she befriends two very different women: the cool and aloof Leana Hartford whose apparent perfection hides a darker side and the ambitious Katherine Norman who dreams of a career once she helps her parents find their place among the elite.

 But the glorious effervescence of the Season evaporates once Lily learns a devastating secret that threatens to destroy her entire family. Faced with a dark past, she’s forced to ask herself what really matters: her family legacy or her own happiness.

This was such a good read! I loved reading about the debutantes, but all the pageantry sounded awful, frankly. Lily was a wonderful character. I enjoyed seeing how she went from a student to a society girl before realizing who she truly wanted to be. The glamor of being a deb didn’t enthrall her for long, and she learned to stand on her own feet and make her own decisions—and friends—as she learned the truth about her past.

Julia Kelly lives in London. The Last Dance of the Debutante is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Aria’s Travelling Book Shop, by Rebecca Raisin

Image belongs to Harper 360.

Title: Aria’s Travelling Book Shop  
Author Rebecca Raisin
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

This summer will change everything! 

Aria Summers knows what she wants. 

A life on the road with best friend Rosie and her beloved camper-van-cum-book-shop, and definitely, definitely, no romance.

 But when Aria finds herself falling – after one too many glasses of wine, from a karaoke stage – into the arms of Jonathan, a part of her comes back to life for the first time in years. 

Since her beloved husband died Aria has sworn off love, unless it’s the kind you can find in the pages of a book. One love of her life is quite enough.

 And so Aria tries to forget Jonathan and sets off for a summer to remember in France. But could this trip change Aria’s life forever…?

This was such a fun read! I enjoyed Rosie’s story before this, and Aria’s story was just as enjoyable. Tea and books:  my favorites. I relished all the literary references, and Aria has such a knack for landing herself in scrapes that it made me laugh. A quick read that’s just pure pleasure.

Rebecca Raisin loves books. Aria’s Travelling Book Shop is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harper 360 in exchange for an honest review.)

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.)