Tag: friendship

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 and Blog Tour:  Would You Rather, by Allison Ashley

Image belongs to Harlequin/MIRA.

TitleWould You Rather     
Author: Allison Ashley
Genre: Romance
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Noah and Mia have always been best friends, and their friendship is the most important thing to them. Life is going great for Noah and he’s up for a promotion in a job he loves. But Mia’s life is on hold as she awaits a kidney transplant. She’s stuck in a dead-end job and, never wanting to be a burden, has sworn off all romance. So when the chance of a lifetime comes to go back to school and pursue her dream, it’s especially painful to pass up. She can’t quit her job or she’ll lose the medical insurance she so desperately needs.

To support her, Noah suggests they get married—in name only—so she can study full-time and still keep the insurance. It’s a risk to both of them, with jobs, health and hearts on the line, and they’ll need to convince suspicious coworkers and nosy roommates that they’re the real deal. But if they can let go of all the baggage holding them back, they might realize that they would rather be together forever.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read! The dynamic between Mia and Noah was wonderful, and their banter makes their friendship even more fun to read. I loved how their relationship slowly changes—after they get married—and they both admit to themselves they’ve had feelings for each other for years. It was so much fun to read about their lives and everything they’ve been through together. I highly recommend this!

Allison Ashley works in oncology. Would You Rather is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:   Lucy Checks In, by Dee Ernst

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Lucy Checks In    
Author: Dee Ernst   
Genre: Romance   
Rating:  5.0 out of 5

Lucia Giannetti needs a fresh start. Once the hotel manager of a glamorous NYC hotel and intimately involved with the hotel’s owner, Lucy had her entire future planned out. But when the owner disappears, taking millions of dollars with him, Lucy’s life as she knows it falls apart.

Two years later, forty-nine years old and unemployed, Lucy takes a job in Rennes, France to manage the Hotel Paradis. She pictures fur quilts and extravagant chandeliers, but what she finds is wildly different. Lucy is now in charge of turning the run-down, but charming hotel into a bustling tourist attraction. Between painting rooms, building a website, and getting to know Bing, the irritatingly attractive artist, Lucy finds an unexpected home. But can she succeed in bringing the Hotel Paradis to its former glory?

I would like to say:  I’ve never had a desire to visit France—except when I read books that make it seem so magical I absolutely must go. This was one of those books. Except the setting was really the Hotel Paradis, not France itself, so really, I want to go to this hotel and live.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I love that the main character was not a woman in her 20s or early 30s, but one almost 50. I love Lucia’s journey back to finding herself and confidence in herself just as much as the journey to restore the hotel. I also loved that romance took a backseat, not the driver’s seat in this story. This is just a wonderful book!

Dee Ernst is from New Jersey. Lucy Checks In is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press 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 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:  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.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  Here for the Drama, by Kate Bromley

Image belongs to Harlequin,

TitleHere for the Drama  
Author:   Kate Bromley
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Becoming a famous playwright is all Winnie ever dreamed about. For now, though, she’ll have to settle for assisting the celebrated, sharp-witted feminist playwright Juliette Brassard. When an experimental theater company in London, England, decides to stage Juliette’s most renowned play, The Lights of Trafalgar, Winnie and Juliette pack their bags and hop across the pond.

But the trip goes sideways faster than you can say “tea and crumpets.” Juliette stubbornly butts heads with the play’s director and Winnie is left stage-managing their relationship. Meanwhile, Winnie’s own work seems to have stalled, and though Juliette keeps promising to read it, she always has some vague reason why she can’t. Then, Juliette’s nephew, Liam, enters stage left. He’s handsome, he’s smart, he is devastatingly British…and his family ties to Juliette pose a serious problem, forcing Winnie to keep their burgeoning relationship on the down-low. What could go wrong?

Balancing a production seemingly headed for disaster, a secret romance and the sweetest, most rambunctious rescue dog, will Winnie save the play, make her own dreams come true and find love along the way—or will the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune get the best of her?

Winnie’s dramatics made me laugh so many times while reading this! Normally, people who go looking for drama get on my nerves, but her heart was in the right place, so I actually enjoyed her antics. The repartee between her and Liam was spot-on, and I couldn’t wait to see where their banter went next. Juliette was a bit much for me, and I don’t know how Winnie put up with her. Even the secondary characters in this novel—like Oscar—were a delight. This is a great vacation read—or work day escape.

Kate Bromley lives in New York City. Here for the Drama is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:   Bloomsbury Girls, by Natalie Jenner

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: Bloomsbury Girls
AuthorNatalie Jenner
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare book store that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiance was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances – most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time – Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others – these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

I think this got off to a little bit of a slow start, but it ended up being very good. I loved The Jane Austen Society, and it was so much fun seeing some of those characters again. I loved all three of the main female characters, and I was fully invested in their stories. It was lovely to see famous literary characters come to life, as well as the secondary characters in the bookstore itself.

Natalie Jenner is a bestselling author. The Bloomsbury Girls is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:   The Kew Gardens Girls at War, by Posy Lovell

Image belongs to Penguin Group Putnam.

Title:    The Kew Gardens Girls at War
Author:    Posy Lovell
Genre:    Historical fiction
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

When Daisy Turner’s new husband joins the RAF to fight the Battle of Britain, she’s terrified she’s going to lose him. So when her mother Ivy suggests she joins the gardeners at Kew to keep busy, Daisy’s intrigued. After all, Ivy worked at Kew during the last war and made lifelong friends along the way.

Ivy’s friend, Louisa Armitage, is feeling old and useless at her Kent home, wishing she could return to Kew and do her bit for the war effort. Tensions are rising between Louisa and her pacifist husband, as they argue over their nephew Christopher, who’s enlisted. But Louisa’s not ready to hang up her gardening gloves yet, and she’s soon on her way to Kew with an idea that could really make a difference.

Meanwhile Beth Sanderson is furious after her father stops her applying to medical school. Angry and frustrated, she applies to a new wartime role at Kew Gardens, alongside her doctor friend Gus Campbell. But the committee is run by men and Beth is asked to take a job a gardener instead, running a demonstration allotment with new friend Daisy. As the bombs fall on a Blitz-stricken London she finds herself torn between Gus, and her boyfriend Paul. Can Gus and Beth overcome the racism of wartime Britain to be together?

When tragedy hits, the women are forced to come together to support each other through their darkest hours. But can the Kew Gardens Girls survive the horrors of war-torn London this time?

This is a wonderful novel! The first I’d read from this author, but hopefully not the last. I think Beth was my favorite character, but I truly liked all of them. Poor Daisy thought Beth was so much better than her because of her looks, but Daisy lent her own strength to the story. This was a lovely read.

Posy Lovell lives in London. The Kew Gardens Girls at War is her newest novel.

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