Tag: women’s fiction

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Clover Girls, by Viola Shipman

Image belongs to Harlequin/Graydon House.

TitleThe Clover Girls
AuthorViola Shipman
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Elizabeth, Veronica, Rachel and Emily met at Camp Birchwood as girls in 1985, where over four summers they were the Clover Girls—inseparable for those magical few weeks of freedom—until the last summer that pulled them apart. Now approaching middle age, the women are facing challenges they never imagined as teens, struggles with their marriages, their children, their careers, and wondering who it is they see when they look in the mirror.

Then Liz, V and Rachel each receive a letter from Emily with devastating news. She implores the girls who were once her best friends to reunite at Camp Birchwood one last time, to spend a week together revisiting the dreams they’d put aside and repair the relationships they’d allowed to sour. But the women are not the same idealistic, confident girls who once ruled Camp Birchwood, and perhaps some friendships aren’t meant to last forever…

I am a little surprised to find out a male author wrote three women and four girls this well. That sounds bad, but usually I can tell when a man is writing female characters. Not this time. The 80’s flashbacks/references were a bit unsettling; although I was fairly young in the 80’s, I still caught the references.

The girls’ friendship was so vivid, so strong it brought back memories (although I never went to summer camp). I enjoyed how much the characters grew as a result of remembering their younger selves—and their friendship. This is a solid, relatable read, perfect for a long, relaxing weekend.

Viola Shipman is the pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his writing. The Clover Girls is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: Sweetshop of Dreams, by Jenny Colgan

Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

TitleSweetshop of Dreams
AuthorJenny Colgan
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5

Rosie Hopkins has gotten used to busy London life. It’s…comfortable. And though she might like a more rewarding career, and her boyfriend’s not exactly the king of romance, Rosie’s not complaining. And when she visits her Aunt Lilian’s small country village to help sort out her sweetshop, she expects it to be dull at best.

Lilian Hopkins has spent her life running Lipton’s sweetshop, through wartime and family feuds. When her great-niece Rosie arrives to help her with the shop, the last thing Lillian wants to slow down and wrestle with the secret history hidden behind the jars of beautifully colored sweets.

But as Rosie gets Lilian back on her feet, breathes a new life into the candy shop, and gets to know the mysterious and solitary Stephen—whose family seems to own the entire town—she starts to think that settling for what’s comfortable might not be so great after all.

This was such a fun book! Rosie’s boyfriend got on my very last nerve—and he’s fictional! I loved the scenes of life in the little village, and Rosie’s misadventures had me laughing. Reading this was sheer enjoyment!

Jenny Colgan was born in Scotland. Sweetshop of Dreams is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Maggie Finds Her Muse, by Dee Ernst

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleMaggie Finds Her Muse
AuthorDee Ernst
Genre:  Romantic comedy
Rating:  5 out of 5

All Maggie Bliss needs to do is write. Forty-eight years old and newly single (again!), she ventures to Paris in a last-ditch effort to finish her manuscript. With a marvelous apartment at her fingertips and an elegant housekeeper to meet her every need, a finished book—and her dream of finally taking her career over the top—is surely within her grasp. After all, how could she find anything except inspiration in Paris, with its sophistication, food, and romance in the air?

But the clock is running out, and between her charming ex-husband arriving in France for vacation and a handsome Frenchman appearing one morning in her bathtub, Maggie’s previously undisturbed peace goes by the wayside.

I loved this book! This is a quick, fun read with a totally relatable heroine who manages to stumble (and eat) her way through Paris as she finally figures out what she wants out of life—and love. Maggie isn’t the perfect young heroine, and her love interest isn’t a typical brawny male. She’s a bit older than me, which made her so easy for me to put myself in her shoes, and she’s still struggling to figure out things. Same, girl. This would make an excellent vacation read, or just savor it over the weekend!

Dee Ernst lives in New Jersey. Maggie Finds Her Muse is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Float Plan, by Trish Doller

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

TitleFloat Plan
AuthorTrish Doller
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Since the loss of her fiancé, Anna has been shipwrecked by grief—until a reminder goes off about a trip they were supposed to take together. Impulsively, Anna goes to sea in their sailboat, intending to complete the voyage alone.

But after a treacherous night’s sail, she realizes she can’t do it by herself and hires Keane, a professional sailor, to help. Much like Anna, Keane is struggling with a very different future than the one he had planned. As romance rises with the tide, they discover that it’s never too late to chart a new course.

This was a fantastic read! I loved it from the very beginning. Anna grows so much as a character as she grieves, struggles, then realizes life does go on after loss—and she becomes stronger and more capable. I loved reading about all the different places she visited and the people she met. And Keane, well, a handsome man from Ireland is always a bonus! (But he’s a terrific guy, too.)

Trish Doller was born in Germany but now lives in Florida. Float Plan is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Vineyard at Painted Moon, by Susan Mallery

Image belongs to Harlequin.

TitleThe Vineyard at Painted Moon
AuthorSusan Mallery
Genre:  Fiction, romance
Rating:  3.0 out of 5

MacKenzie Dienes’s life isn’t perfect, but it’s as close as she could ever hope to get. Her marriage to Rhys, her best friend’s brother, is more friendship than true love. But passion is highly overrated, right? And she loves her job as the winemaker at Bel Apres, her in-laws’ vineyard. So what if it’s a family business and, even after decades of marriage and incredible professional success, she’s still barred from the family business meetings? It’s all enough…until one last night spent together leads to an incredibly honest—and painful—conversation. Rhys suggests that they divorce. They haven’t had a marriage in a long time and, while he wants her to keep her job at Bel Apres, he doesn’t think they should be married any longer. Shocked, MacKenzie reels at the prospect of losing the only family she’s ever really known…even though she knows deep in her heart that Rhys is right.

But when MacKenzie discovers she’s pregnant, walking away to begin a new life isn’t so easy. She never could have anticipated the changes it would bring to the relationships she cherishes most: her relationship with Barbara, her mother-in-law and partner at Bel Apres, Stephanie, her sister-in-law and best friend, and Bel Apres, the company she’s worked so hard to put on the map.

MacKenzie has always dreamed of creating a vineyard of her own, a chance to leave a legacy for her unborn child. So when the opportunity arises, she jumps at it and builds the Vineyard at Painted Moon. But following her dreams will come at a high price—one that MacKenzie isn’t so sure she’s willing to pay…

Susan Mallery is an excellent writer and creates realistic and believable characters. I haven’t read too many of her novels, but I’m familiar with her work. However…I did not like this novel. For one reason:  so many of the characters were awful people. They were believable enough and consistent—no dramatic changes in heart or personality—they were just completely unlikable.

MacKenzie was likable enough and totally sympathetic, and I like Stephanie and Four (another sister-in-law) and Bruno, but Barbara was truly a terrible person, and her third daughter wasn’t far behind. Both of them were spiteful, hateful, vindictive, and petty. And Rhys ended up being not far behind them—which was a bit of a surprise, as he was perfectly nice and reasonable to begin with, then became a jerk when his freedom was threatened. It’s extremely difficult for me to read books about characters like this, so it’s a testament to the writing quality that I even finished it.

Susan Mallery is a NYT-bestselling author. The Vineyard at Painted Moon is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Glimmer As You Can, by Danielle Martin

Image belongs to Alcove Press.

Title: Glimmer As You Can
Author: Danielle Martin
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Welcome to the Starlite. Let your true self shine.

1962. In the middle of Brooklyn Heights sits the Starlite: boutique dress shop by day, underground women’s club by night. Started by the shop’s proprietor after her marriage crumbled, Madeline’s social club soon becomes a safe haven for women from all walks of life looking for a respite from their troubled relationships and professional frustrations. These after-hour soirées soon bring two very different women into Madeline’s life–Elaine, a British ex-pat struggling to save her relationship, and Lisa, a young stewardess whose plans for the future are suddenly upended–irrevocably changing all three women’s lives in ways no one could have predicted.

But when Madeline’s ne’er-do-well ex-husband shows up again, the luster of Starlite quickly dampens. As the sisterhood rallies around Madeline, tension begins to eat at the club. When an unspeakable tragedy befalls their sorority, one woman must decide whether to hide the truth from the group or jeopardize her own hopes and dreams.

This is a hard time period to read about:  women’s rights are still a pipe dream and getting married and having a family should be all every woman wants. Except it’s not. The three main characters are very different, yet all three struggle with some of the same issues. The women’s club community was both fun to read about and also seemed a bit random.

I found this book to be disjointed in a lot of places. I can see what the author was trying to do, butthis fell a bit short. I felt disconnected from these characters, and while I cared what happened, my connection to them was erratic enough that I wasn’t deeply invested in the read.

Danielle Martin is a teacher. Glimmer As You Can is her debut novel.

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

Book Review: The Christmas Table, by Donna VanLiere

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title: The Christmas Table
Author:  Donna VanLiere   
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

In June 1972, John Creighton determines to build his wife Joan a kitchen table. His largest project to date had been picture frames but he promises to have the table ready for Thanksgiving dinner. Inspired to put something delicious on the table, Joan turns to her mother’s recipes she had given to Joan when she and John married.

In June 2012, Lauren Mabrey discovers she’s pregnant. Gloria, Miriam, and the rest of her friends at Glory’s Place begin to pitch in, helping Lauren prepare their home for the baby. On a visit to the local furniture builder, Lauren finds a table that he bought at a garage sale but has recently refinished. Once home, a drawer is discovered under the table which contains a stack of recipe cards. Growing up in one foster home after another, Lauren never learned to cook and is fascinated as she reads through the cards. Personal notes have been written on each one from the mother to her daughter and time and again Lauren wonders where they lived, when they lived, and in a strange way, she feels connected to this mother and her daughter and wants to make the mother proud.

The story continues to from 1972 to 2012 as Joan battles breast cancer and Lauren learns to cook, preparing for the baby’s arrival. As Christmas nears, can Lauren unlock the mystery of the table, and find the peace she’s always longed for?

This was a sweet tale of two women and their families in two separate decades and their stories. It’s also full of descriptions of delicious food!

“Sweet” is really the perfect adjective for this book:  there’s the food of course—not always desserts—but there’s also the journeys Joan and Lauren go on as they attempt to grow, learn, and thrive with the hands they’ve been dealt. Their friends and family truly surround them on their journeys, helping to get then through to their destinations.

Donna VanLiere is a bestselling author. The Christmas Table is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: In Case You Missed It, by Lindsey Kelk

Image belongs to HarperCollins.

Title: In Case You Missed It
Author: Lindsey Kelk    
Genre: Women’s fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

When Ros steps off a plane after four years away she’s in need of a job, a flat and a phone that actually works. And, possibly, her old life back. Because everyone at home has moved on, her parents have reignited their sex life, she’s sleeping in a converted shed and she’s got a bad case of nostalgia for the way things were.

Then her new phone begins to ping with messages from people she thought were deleted for good. Including one number she knows off by heart: her ex’s.

Sometimes we’d all like the chance to see what we’ve been missing…

I don’t think I’ve read any of this author’s work before, but judging from this, she’s a solid, capable writer. I laughed a few times, I enjoyed the description of life in London, and it was a quick read. Ros’s mother’s wardrobe malfunctions were the funniest parts to me.

Ros herself was a disaster, and it’s hard for me to sympathize with a character who keeps doing stupid stuff and ignoring things. Like the behavior of her ex—who is her ex for a reason—or the fact that she looks at everything through rose-colored glasses. She’s clueless and selfish, and while I enjoyed her friend group, Ros acted like a spoiled teenager and the plot was predictable all along.

Lindsey Kelk was born in England and Lives in L.A. In Case You Missed It is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: All Stirred Up, by Brianne Moore

Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title: All Stirred Up
Author: Brianne Moore    
Genre: Women’s fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5

Susan Napier’s family once lived on the success of the high-end restaurants founded by her late grandfather. But bad luck and worse management has brought the business to the edge of financial ruin. Now it’s up to Susan to save the last remaining restaurant: Elliot’s, the flagship in Edinburgh.

But what awaits Susan in the charming city of Auld Reekie is more than she bargained for. Chris Baker, her grandfather’s former protégé–and her ex-boyfriend–is also heading to the Scottish capital. After finding fame in New York as a chef and judge of a popular TV cooking competition, Chris is returning to his native Scotland to open his own restaurant. Although the storms have cleared after their intense and rocky breakup, Susan and Chris are re-drawn into each other’s orbit–and their simmering attraction inevitably boils over.

As Chris’s restaurant opens to great acclaim and Susan tries to haul Elliot’s back from the brink, the future brims with new promise. But darkness looms as they find themselves in the crosshairs of a gossip blogger eager for a juicy story–and willing to do anything to get it. Can Susan and Chris reclaim their lost love, or will the tangled past ruin their last hope for happiness?

This was a fun read. Susan’s family was awful, though, as was all the obsession with social media/appearances. That did make sense, though, as two characters are actors and a third is a famous chef.

The history between Susan and Chris was pretty bleak—and dark for more than one reason, one of which came totally out of nowhere, so it was a bit less than believable for me. But the chemistry between these two characters—not to mention the food descriptions—made this very enjoyable.

Brianne Moore was born and raised in Pennsylvania but now lives in Scotland. All Stirred Up is her newest novel.

Book Review: The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux, by Samantha Vérant

the secret french recipes
Image belongs to Berkely.

Title: The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux
Author:  Samantha Vérant   
Genre: Women’s fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

A disgraced chef rediscovers her passion for food and her roots in this stunning novel rich in culture and full of delectable recipes.

French-born American chef Sophie Valroux had one dream: to be part of the 1% of female chefs running a Michelin-starred restaurant. From spending summers with her grandmother, who taught her the power of cooking and food, to attending the Culinary Institute of America, Sophie finds herself on the cusp of getting everything she’s dreamed of.

Until her career goes up in flames.

Sabotaged by a fellow chef, Sophie is fired, leaving her reputation ruined and confidence shaken. To add fuel to the fire, Sophie learns that her grandmother has suffered a stroke and takes the red-eye to France. There, Sophie discovers the simple home she remembers from her childhood is now a luxurious château, complete with two restaurants and a vineyard. As Sophie tries to reestablish herself in the kitchen, she comes to understand the lengths people will go to for success and love, and how dreams can change.

First of all, this book made me hungry. The descriptions of the food are to die for! The author really brought the environment of a professional kitchen to life (I assume it’s realistic), and I cannot imagine the stress and pressure these people live with on the daily.

Sophie was a lot of fun. She watches her dreams go up in smoke and wallows in her grief for a while—as we all would—before deciding she’s had enough. Her missteps are believable, and her determination—once she finally finds it—is inspiring. This was an enjoyable read that kind of made me want to visit France.

Samantha Vérant lives in France. The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux is her newest novel.

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