Tag: women

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Friendship List, by Susan Mallery

the friendship list
Image belongs to Harlequin/HQN.

Title: The Friendship List
Author:  Susan Mallery   
Genre: Fiction, romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

Ellen and Unity have been best friends basically since birth, but they couldn’t be more different. Unity married her childhood sweetheart just after high school and became an Army wife, moving from base to base…until her husband’s shocking death in the line of duty leaves her a widow. Grief-stricken, it’s time for Unity to come back home to Ellen—the only person she can trust to help her rebuild her life. But Ellen has troubles of her own. Boys never seemed to notice Ellen…until one got her pregnant in high school and disappeared. Her son is now 17 and she’s wondering what to do with herself now that he’s heading off to college and he’s literally her entire world.

But now that Ellen and Unity are reunited, they’re done with their stale lives. It’s time to shake things up and start living again, knowing that they’ll always have one another to lean on. So they create a list of challenges they have to accomplish–everything from getting a tattoo to skydiving to staying out all night. And whoever completes the most challenges is the winner. But with new adventures and love just around the corner, there’s no such thing as losing…

The friendship between Ellen and Unity was so much fun to read—even when they fought. And I loved the fact that we got to see what the guys were thinking, too. That made everything much more interesting. Unity’s hanging out with all the older adults made the story charming, although her refusal to face reality was slightly annoying. This was a cute, fun read and I enjoyed seeing the characters grow and change.

Susan Mallery is a bestselling author. The Friendship List is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify, by Carolyn Holbrook

tell me your names
Image belongs to University of Minnesota Press.

Title: Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify
Author: Carolyn Holbrook
Genre:   Nonfiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

Carolyn Holbrook’s life is peopled with ghosts—of the girl she was, the selves she shed and those who have caught up to her, the wounded and kind and malevolent spirits she’s encountered, and also the beloved souls she’s lost and those she never knew who beg to have their stories told. “Now don’t you go stirring things up,” one ghostly aunt counsels. Another smiles encouragingly: “Don’t hold back, child. Someone out there needs to hear what you have to say.”

Once a pregnant sixteen-year-old incarcerated in the Minnesota juvenile justice system, now a celebrated writer, arts activist, and teacher who helps others unlock their creative power, Holbrook has heeded the call to tell the story of her life, and to find among its chapters—the horrific and the holy, the wild and the charmed—the lessons and necessary truths of those who have come before. In a memoir woven of moments of reckoning, she summons stories born of silence, stories held inside, untold stories stifled by pain or prejudice or ignorance. A child’s trauma recalls her own. An abusive marriage returns to haunt her family. She builds a career while raising five children as a single mother; she struggles with depression and grapples with crises immediate and historical, all while countenancing the subtle racism lurking under “Minnesota nice.”

Here Holbrook poignantly traces the path from her troubled childhood to her leadership positions in the Twin Cities literary community, showing how creative writing can be a powerful tool for challenging racism and the healing ways of the storyteller’s art.

Carolyn Holbrook has accomplished wonderful and amazing things—not the least of which is raising five children on her own and earning a doctorate. She encountered obstacles, prejudice, and sexism, and overcame them all, and her story is empowering, uplifting, and inspiring.

Some parts of the book bogged me down a bit, as they seemed repetitive or jumped around in time and/or subject. I felt that lessened the impact of Holbrook’s message as it allowed the reader to become distracted. I know this is an essay collection ranging over 25 years, so to an extent it’s understandable, but it’s still a distraction for the reader—and some people stop reading as soon as the author loses their interest.

Carolyn Holbrook created SASE: The Write Place; she’s a professor of creative writing and has won awards in her work for the arts. Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify is her newest book.

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

Book Review: How Lulu Lost Her Mind, by Lulu Gibson

 

how lulu lost her mind
Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:   How Lulu Lost Her Mind
Author:  Rachel Gibson
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

Lou Ann Hunter’s mother, Patricia, has always had a passionate nature, which explains why she’s been married and divorced five times and spooned enough male patients to be ousted from three elderly care facilities. She also has Alzheimer’s, which is why she wants to spend her remaining months or years surrounded by memories at her family’s decrepit old plantation in Louisiana with her only daughter.

Lou Ann, a.k.a. Lulu the Love Guru, has built an empire preaching sex, love, and relationship advice to the women of America—mostly by defying the example her mother has set for her. But with her mother suddenly in need of a fulltime caretaker, Lou Ann reluctantly agrees to step out of the spotlight and indulge her mother’s wishes, even if it means trading in her Louboutins and Chanel No. 5 for boots and mosquito repellant.

Upon arrival at Sutton Hall, Lou Ann discovers that very little functions at it should, least of all her mother’s mind. She is haunted not only by creaky floorboards and things that go bump in the night, but also by the living ghost sleeping downstairs. Every good day Patricia and Lou Ann have treasure hunting in the attic seems to be followed by two days of meltdowns and cold shoulders. And as Lou Ann adjusts to this new and inevitably temporary dynamic, she is forced to confront the fact that her mother’s fate is completely out of her hands—and the end may be coming quicker than she even thought possible.

I have a family history of Alzheimer’s, with three straight generations of the women on my mother’s side of the family getting it. In that respect, this was a hard read—because I related to the idea so much. Lulu—Lou Ann—is a great, relatable character, but her mother is wonderful. Patricia made me laugh so many times in this novel! I haven’t worn lipstick in years, but I felt the urge to buy some after reading this.

I really enjoyed the journey in this book. It was great seeing how Lulu evolved, and I loved the Cajun flair of the novel!

Rachel Gibson is a bestselling author. How Lulu Lost Her Mind is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: She’s Faking It, by Kristin Rockaway

She's Faking It Blog Tour

she's faking it
Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

Title:   She’s Faking It
Author:   Kristin Rockaway
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

Bree Bozeman isn’t exactly pursuing the life of her dreams. Then again, she isn’t too sure what those dreams are. After dropping out of college, she’s living a pretty chill life in the surf community of Pacific Beach, San Diego…if “chill” means delivering food as a GrubGetter, and if it means “uneventful”.

But when Bree starts a new Instagram account — @breebythesea — one of her posts gets a signal boost from none other than wildly popular self-help guru Demi DiPalma, owner of a lifestyle brand empire. Suddenly, Bree just might be a rising star in the world of Instagram influencing. Is this the direction her life has been lacking? It’s not a career choice she’d ever seriously considered, but maybe it’s a sign from the universe. After all, Demi’s the real deal… right?

Everything is lining up for Bree: life goals, career, and even a blossoming romance with the chiseled guy next door, surf star Trey Cantu. But things are about to go sideways fast, and even the perfect filter’s not gonna fix it. Instagram might be free, but when your life looks flawless on camera, what’s the cost?

This book made me laugh! Bree is the very definition of failing at adulting…except, what if “adulting” isn’t what you want to be or do? Bree just needs to figure out what she wants to do. She is such a relatable character. Her very relatableness made this an immersive read.

It reminded me of Flirting with Forty, in a very tenuous way (At heart, both books are about figuring out what you want and pursing that dream.). I laughed at Bree, I cringed, I hoped she would not make the bad decisions I saw looming…but I was fully invested in her story from the first page.

Kristin Rockaway is a former software engineer. She’s Faking It is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Summer House, by Lauren K. Denton

the summer house
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  The Summer House
AuthorLauren K. Denton
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Lily Bishop wakes one morning to find a good-bye note and divorce papers from her husband on the kitchen counter. Having moved to Alabama for his job only weeks before, Lily is devastated but forced to contemplate her next steps when she sees a flier at the grocery store for a hair stylist position in a local retirement community.

Rose Carrigan built the small retirement village of Safe Harbor years ago–just before her husband ran off with his assistant. Now she runs a tight ship, making sure the residents follow her strict rules. Rose keeps everyone at arm’s length, including her own family. But when Lily shows up asking for a job and a place to live, Rose’s cold exterior begins to thaw. Lily and Rose form an unlikely friendship, and Lily’s salon soon becomes the place where residents share town gossip, as well as a few secrets of their own. Lily even finds herself drawn to Rose’s nephew, Rawlins–a single dad and shrimper who’s had some practice at starting over, and one of the residents may be carrying a torch for Rose as well.

Neither Lily nor Rose is where they expected to be, but the summer makes them both wonder if there’s more to life and love than what they’ve lived so far. The Summer House weaves Lauren Denton’s inviting Southern charm around a woman’s journey to find herself.

I’m just going to say it:  I love Lauren K. Denton’s writing! This was another entrancing summer read! If only I’d been at the beach reading….I was glued to the page from the moment Lily woke up to find her husband gone without warning.

Rose changed the most during this novel, and her journey was wonderful to read. Despite her emotionally barricaded life, she learns to open up and trust people, just as Lily does. Even the secondary characters are wonderful, and this is definitely a book worth binge reading!

Lauren K. Denton is a bestselling author. The Summer House is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: On Ocean Boulevard, by Mary Alice Monroe

on ocean boulevard
Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:  On Ocean Boulevard
AuthorMary Alice Monroe
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

It’s been sixteen years since Caretta “Cara” Rutledge has returned home to the beautiful shores of Charleston, South Carolina. Over those years, she has weathered the tides of deaths and births, struggles and joys. And now, as Cara prepares for her second wedding, her life is about to change yet again.

Meanwhile, the rest of the storied Rutledge family is also in flux. Cara’s niece Linnea returns to Sullivan’s Island to begin a new career and an unexpected relationship. Linnea’s parents, having survived bankruptcy, pin their hopes and futures on the construction of a new home on Ocean Boulevard. But as excitement over the house and wedding builds, a devastating illness strikes the family and brings plans to a screeching halt. It is under these trying circumstances that the Rutledge family must come together yet again to discover the enduring strength in love, tradition, and legacy from mother to daughter to granddaughter.

Like the sea turtles that come ashore annually on these windswept islands, three generations of the Rutledge family experience a season of return, rebirth, and growth.

As a former environmental biology major with a love of the ocean, I loved the conservation and environmental aspects of this. And I really wanted to pack up and go live on a barrier island. I cannot imagine how wonderful it would be to wake up to the ocean at sunrise every morning.

I enjoyed Cara’s story the most, but Linnea’s struggles were totally relatable. I couldn’t quite relate to the wealth and privilege of some of the characters, but family expectations? Absolutely. This was a quick, uncomplicated read—and yes, it would be a perfect beach read!

Mary Alice Monroe is a bestselling author and a conservationist. On Ocean Boulevard is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Queen of the Unwanted, by Jenna Glass

queen of the unwanted
Image belongs to Del Rey.

Title:  Queen of the Unwanted
AuthorJenna Glass
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating:  4 out of 5

In this world, women have no rights. If their husband or father decide they’ve disgraced their family—for anything from not having a child quickly enough to a sideways look—they are sent away, usually to one of the Abbeys, where they are forced to pleasure any man who desires. They have no rights. They have no futures. They have no magic. At least, they didn’t…

Alys is queen of Women’s Well, a new colony where women have equal rights after the Women’s War. But Alys can’t bring herself to care about anything besides the loss of her daughter—and her own desire for vengeance. Her mother gave her life for the spell that gave women magic, but Alys finds it hard to see past her personal tragedy.

Faced with opposition from men who still believe women have no rights, Ellin struggles to rule her land—and to change the status quo for men unused to women with power.

An abbess thinks she can reverse the spell that changed the world—but all she really wants is to keep the power she has gained through cunning and treachery.

Unless these women can find a way to work together, they will lose everything they have gained.

I haven’t read The Women’s War—yet—but I still had no trouble following what was going on in Queen of the Unwanted. (I would recommend reading the first book, though, as I’m sure this novel would be much richer with that introduction.) Excellent writing and worldbuilding, and a great mix of characters:  some I liked, some I disliked, some I actively hated. I recommend reading this—and I can’t wait to go back and read the first novel.

Jenna Glass has been writing books since the fifth grade. Queen of the Unwanted is her newest novel, the second book in The Women’s War series.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Summer Villa, by Melissa Hill

the summer villa blog tour

the summer villa
Image belongs to Harlquin/MIRA.

Title:  The Summer Villa
AuthorMelissa Hill
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Three women. One summer reunion. Secrets will be revealed…

Villa Dolce Vita, a rambling stone house on the Amalfi Coast, sits high above the Gulf of Naples amid dappled lemon groves and fragrant, tumbling bougainvillea. Kim, Colette and Annie all came to the villa in need of escape and in the process forged an unlikely friendship.

Now, years later, Kim has transformed the crumbling house into a luxury retreat and has invited her friends back for the summer to celebrate.

But as friendships are rekindled under the Italian sun, secrets buried in the past will come to light, and not everyone is happy that the three friends are reuniting… Each woman will have things to face up to if they are all to find true happiness and fully embrace the sweet life.

On one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Italy—and a vacation sounds wonderful right about now! On the other, I found Kim and Annie to be mildly annoying characters at best. Kim was rather self-absorbed, spoiled, and selfish. Annie was…well, she had a huge chip on her shoulder and spent quite a bit of time feeling sorry for herself. That’s a no-go for me.

I liked Colette, and I would have enjoyed more time spent with her, but a lot of this novel fell in the “too good to be true” category for me. I mean, doesn’t everyone meet handsome strangers who fall immediately in love with you on vacation…and end up wildly successful in your chosen field? This is still an quick, breezy read that doesn’t require too much mental involvement to enjoy.

Melissa Hill is a bestselling author. The Summer Villa is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Feels Like Falling, by Kristy Woodson Harvey

feels like falling
Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:  Feels Like Falling
AuthorKristy Woodson Harvey
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5 

It’s summertime on the North Carolina coast and the livin’ is easy.

Unless, that is, you’ve just lost your mother to cancer, your sister to her extremist husband, and your husband to his executive assistant. Meet Gray Howard. Right when Gray could use a serious infusion of good karma in her life, she inadvertently gets a stranger, Diana Harrington, fired from her job at the local pharmacy.

Diana Harrington’s summer isn’t off to the greatest start either: Hours before losing her job, she broke up with her boyfriend and moved out of their shared house with only a worn-out Impala for a bed. Lucky for her, Gray has an empty guest house and a very guilty conscience.

With Gray’s kindness, Diana’s tide begins to turn. But when her first love returns, every secret from her past seems to resurface all at once. And, as Gray begins to blaze a new trail, she discovers, with Diana’s help, that what she envisioned as her perfect life may not be what she wants at all.

I loved the relationship Gray had with her assistant and her best friend! Their interactions, especially when adding Diana into the mix, made the whole novel come alive. I didn’t quite get why Gray had such a problem with the age difference between herself and her new man—it wasn’t that big, and he was in graduate school, it’s not like he was a freshman or something. She also dropped him pretty quick and was interested in someone else—who she then handed to her best friend like he was a purse she tried out and didn’t like. This was definitely a novel about opposites, as Diana was a far cry from Gray’s posh and privileged life. A fun read, but not a lot of character depth.

Kristy Woodson Harvey is a bestselling author. Feels Like Falling is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Engineer’s Wife, by Tracey Enerson Wood

the engineer's wife
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

Title:  The Engineer’s Wife
AuthorTracey Enerson Wood
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Emily Warren Roebling refuses to live conventionally―she knows who she is and what she wants, and she’s determined to make change. But then her husband Wash asks the unthinkable: give up her dreams to make his possible.

Emily’s fight for women’s suffrage is put on hold, and her life transformed when Wash, the Chief Engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, is injured on the job. Untrained for the task, but under his guidance, she assumes his role, despite stern resistance and overwhelming obstacles. Lines blur as Wash’s vision becomes her own, and when he is unable to return to the job, Emily is consumed by it. But as the project takes shape under Emily’s direction, she wonders whose legacy she is building―hers, or her husband’s. As the monument rises, Emily’s marriage, principles, and identity threaten to collapse. When the bridge finally stands finished, will she recognize the woman who built it?

Interestingly enough, the big subplot of this novel:  the love triangle between Emily, Wash, and PT Barnum isn’t even mentioned in the synopsis. Nor is the women’s suffrage movement, also a significant part of the story. Both of these things gave more depth to the storyline, and PT Barnum was arguably the most interesting character in the novel.

I found Emily herself likable enough, if a bit self-absorbed. She fought a hard battle and that came through clearly, although I felt her strength was overshadowed by her lack of awareness of how her actions affected others. Wash was also self-absorbed, but his willingness to put his own feeling aside in favor of Emily’s wishes was a nice touch of character.

Tracey Enerson Wood has always loved writing. The Engineer’s Wife is her new novel.

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