Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Return

 ~ I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~

Synopsis:  In the romantic tradition of Dear John, #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with the story of an injured Navy doctor—and two women whose secrets will change the course of his life.

Trevor Benson never intended to move back to New Bern, North Carolina. But when a mortar blast outside the hospital where he worked sent him home from Afghanistan with devastating injuries, the dilapidated cabin he'd inherited from his grandfather seemed as good a place to regroup as any.

 Tending to his grandfather's beloved beehives, Trevor isn't prepared to fall in love with a local . . . yet, from their very first encounter, Trevor feels a connection with deputy sheriff Natalie Masterson that he can't ignore. But even as she seems to reciprocate his feelings, she remains frustratingly distant, making Trevor wonder what she's hiding.

 Further complicating his stay in New Bern is the presence of a sullen teenage girl, Callie, who lives in the trailer park down the road. Trevor hopes Callie can shed light on the mysterious circumstances of his grandfather's death, but she offers few clues -- until a crisis triggers a race to uncover the true nature of Callie's past, one more intertwined with the elderly man's passing than Trevor could ever have imagined.

 In his quest to unravel Natalie and Callie's secrets, Trevor will learn the true meaning of love and forgiveness . . . and that in life, to move forward, we must often return to the place where it all began.

One (or more) Sentence Summary:  Another great book by Nicholas Sparks.  A good storyline, fast read, wonderful characters, and a happy outcome.  I read The Return during my holiday break and zipped right through it.  A fast read that also made me feel good during the crazy times we are experiencing. 

I must tell this story about Nicholas Sparks though.....Back in 1996, I was in a Walden's Bookstore (anyone remembers that store?) and the worker suggested The Notebook.  It had just been released and she was up all night reading it.  I thought why not, I am always looking for a good book.  Well, I too read it one night and loved it.  A few weeks later, I was reading the paper and Nicholas was coming to Jacksonville to an independent bookstore about 1/2 mile down from my apartment.  I had never been to a book signing and decided to go.  There were six of us there, including Nicholas.  I was in such awe.  He even pulled out his wallet and showed us photos of his family.  Remember in 1996 we didn't have cell phones and carried photos in our wallets. 

Fast forward to 2001-2008 and I am living in SE Ohio.  An amazing bookstore called Books & Co. brings in authors all the time (used to love it and would go to so many of the events) and Nicholas drew in a crowd.  At my first Ohio Nicholas book signing, there were probably close to 100 of us.  By the time 2004 rolled around and I talked my mother into coming down from Michigan to attend one of his signings, we were number 342 and 343. Her favorite book was A Message in a Bottle. They stopped allowing people in after 400.  Keep in mind, my mom went 2 hours early to stand in line while I was at work.  She absolutely adored all his books too. Amazing how there were five us in 1996 at his book signing in Jacksonville to 400  plus all those turned away. He was also so kind too.

I mentioned my mom's favorite book was A Message in a Bottle.  She was on a schooner off the coast of Maine and put a special message in a bottle and tossed it overboard.  I happened to be in Cape Cod one weekend that summer visiting friends.  I played a very funny joke on her.....I picked up a postcard (remember pre-cell phone days) and told her I got her message in a bottle and would like to meet her.  I signed it N. Sparksucker.  She was so excited the day she got the postcard and called me and was reading it to me.  When she got to the end.....she figured it out.  She wasn't too happy, but there were a lot of us that got a great laugh out of it!

So you can see I have been a Nicholas fan for a long time, since the beginning! All his books are amazing and have a back story to them (that is the part I miss most - hearing him discuss how he came up with the story).  

With over 100 million copies of his books sold, Nicholas Sparks is one of the world's most beloved storytellers. His novels include fifteen #1 New York Times bestsellers, and all of his books, including Three Weeks with My Brother, the memoir he wrote with his brother, Micah, have been New York Times and international bestsellers, and were translated into more than fifty languages. Eleven of Nicholas Sparks's novels -- The Choice, The Longest Ride, The Best of Me, Safe Haven, The Lucky One, The Last Song, Dear John, Nights in Rodanthe, The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, and Message in a Bottle—have been adapted into major motion pictures. 

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Perfect Guest

 ~ I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~

The USA Today bestselling author of The Au Pair returns with another delicious, twisty novel—about a grand estate with many secrets, an orphan caught in a web of lies, and a young woman playing a sinister game.

1988. Beth Soames is fourteen years old when her aunt takes her to stay at Raven Hall, a rambling manor in the isolated East Anglian fens. The Averells, the family who lives there, are warm and welcoming, and Beth becomes fast friends with their daughter, Nina. At times, Beth even feels like she's truly part of the family...until they ask her to help them with a harmless game—and nothing is ever the same.

2019. Sadie Langton is an actress struggling to make ends meet when she lands a well-paying gig to pretend to be a guest at a weekend party. She is sent a suitcase of clothing, a dossier outlining the role she is to play, and instructions. It's strange, but she needs the money, and when she sees the stunning manor she'll be staying at, she figures she’s got nothing to lose. 

In person, Raven Hall is even grander than she'd imagined—even with damage from a fire decades before—but the walls seem to have eyes. As day turns to night, Sadie starts to feel that there’s something off about the glamorous guests who arrive, and as the party begins, it becomes chillingly apparent their unseen host is playing games with everyone...including her.

Author photo © Brian Rous.

Emma Rous is the USA Today bestselling author of The Au Pair. She grew up in England, Indonesia, Kuwait, Portugal and Fiji, and from a young age she had two ambitions: to write stories, and to look after animals. She studied veterinary medicine and zoology at the University of Cambridge, and worked as a small animal veterinarian for eighteen years before starting to write fiction. Emma lives near Cambridge in England with her husband and three sons, and she now writes full time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Bagging Alice

 ~ I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~

Synopsis (from Amazon):  Alice is used to taking photographs for a living – not having intimate pictures of herself posted for all the world to see, thanks to a disgruntled ex-boyfriend. Now her clients are cancelling appointments, and she’s almost out of cash. What else could go wrong? Oh yeah, her room mate has scarpered leaving Alice completely out of luck. 

Enter Tom ‘man whore’ Maddens. Having disappointed his father one time too many, he moves to Brighton, ready for a new start. And where better to begin it than in Alice’s newly-vacant spare room? And if he tries to seduce her at the same time? Well he’s just living up to his reputation isn’t he? 

But then he didn’t bank on actually falling for her. Will his reputation as a commitment phobe put a stop to any sparks between the pair? Or can Alice put aside her trust issues and take a leap of faith for Tom? 

One (or more) Sentence Summary:  Another amazing book by Laura Barnard. Love her books.  Bagging Alice didn't let me know down....like a lot of Laura's books they are as funny as they are steamy.  What two great things to put together in a book.  

Baggin Alice is book three of the Babes of Brighton series but can be read as a stand-alone too.  I got so carried with Alice and Tom and couldn't put my kindle down.  I love books that can make me laugh out loud and blush in the same chapter.  

Alice has her share of bad boyfriends but when her latest one posts pictures on the internet and her roommate ups and leaves, her life becomes even a bigger mess.  In walks Tom, friend of friends, who is in need of a place to live.  The love-hate-love relationship between the two just grows on you.

The first page.....oh my gosh.  I couldn't stop laughing.

Would I Read Other Books by the Author:  Have read so many of her books and loved them all.

Amazon Best Seller Laura Barnard lives in Herts, UK and writes romantic comedy. In her spare time she enjoys drinking her body weight in tea, indulging in cupcakes the size of her face and drooling over hunks on pinterest.

​She enjoys wearing yoga pants and reading fitness magazines while sitting on the sofa eating chocolate. She's a real fan of the power nap, loves setting her friends up together and of course READING!

​She writes not to get rich or famous, but because she LOVES writing. Even if one person tells her they enjoyed her book it makes the midnight typing worth it!

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Trading Secrets

 ~ I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~

Synopsis:  Celeste Donovan, a high-powered finance executive, seems to have it all–the penthouse apartment, the supermodel physique with a mathematician mind, and a trail of beautiful men she has loved and left behind. 
But when her boyfriend Theodore is killed in a mysterious accident, she discovers Omar, her abusive ex she had hoped would never resurface, is behind his death. 

Now she’s caught in a game of cat and mouse, trying to anticipate Omar’s next move, as she realizes he will stop at nothing to get to her. She sets out alone on a whirlwind journey to entrap him, determined to put an end to Omar’s destruction. 

Soon Celeste is thrust in the middle of the largest financial scandal in decades. This time, however, powerful government officials are in bed with some of the world’s most dangerous men. 

When she discovers that those she thought she knew best are involved in a secret society warring with Omar and his coconspirators, she must decide how far she will go to avenge Theodore’s death and whether she is willing to risk her own life to save everyone she loves.

(*Warning: Ages 18+ / Explicit Sexual Content)

One (or more) Sentence Summary:  Wow....I loved this book.  I mean really loved it!  If I could I would give it 6 stars.  I think Trading Secrets like Jackie Collins' Lucky Santangelo meets Wall Street (I love Jackie's Santangelo series).  Amazingly good and it's Rachael Eckles first novel....WOW!

Trading Secrets is full of suspense, sex, money, well to do friends, and connections.  But what happens when you connect with the wrong person? Plot twists, that is what happens, along with greed and lust. 

Superfast read that I couldn't put it down.  It is a must-read for 2021 (before spring when book 2 comes out).  Absolutely loved it.

Would I Read Other Books by the Author:  I was so happy when I got to the end and saw three word....TO BE CONTINUED....it's a trilogy.  I can't wait to read the next book or anything else by Rachael Eckles.

Rachael Eckles grew up in the Midwest. After graduating from law school, she followed her heart and moved to the east coast. Trading Secrets is her first novel. She currently lives in Manhattan with her puppy, where she is working on book two in the Trading Secrets Trilogy.

She is a board member for The Village Cooperative (experiencethevillage.com) and is donating 5% of her book sales proceeds to TVC for programs to empower women, girls, and communities in Kenya, Guatemala, and India.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Update: What's in Your Beach Bag

Update: As I am looking outside at my brown grass (no snow-which is just fine with me) snuggled in a cabin striped blanket I crochet a few weeks ago (click here for the blanket I made - by Mama In A Stitch - love her patterns), I started thinking about how I can't wait for summer to get here.  It has to be better than last year, right?  It dawned on me that I never posted an update on my Beach Bag reads. 

I am so happy to report that I have read all 11 books that I put in my beach bag this summer.  Links to each review are below!  I didn't get my last review done until October, darn it.  July - December is my really crazy months at work, so I think I need to start filling my beach bag with books in April to ensure I complete them all by Labor Day.

For the past two summers, I have posted What's In Your Beach Bag?  The first year (2011), I didn't do so well.  I still have 5 books out of 14 that I haven't read.  Still on my bookshelf though.  

Last year, it took me until fall to finish my list.  I read all 11 books on last year's list and posted 10 reviews.  One book is still with the publisher and I have been asked to hold on to the review until there is a release date. Here's to doing better in 2020!

Leave me a comment letting me know at least one of the books you plan on reading this summer.  I love book suggestions.

Here is what is in my beach bag this summer.  

1.  The Lost Girls of Devon by Barbara O'neal

2. Louisiana Lucky by Julie Pennell

3. The Little Book Shop of the Seine by Rebecca Raisin

4. The Sun Sister by Lucinda Riley

5.  Behind the Red Door by Megan Collins

6. Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel

7. Beach Read by Emily Henry

8. Liberation by Imogen Kealy

9. A Little Bit of Grace by Phoebe Fox

10. The Search Party by Simon Lelic

11.  One Hundred Daffodils by Rebecca Winn

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Our Italian Summer

 ~ I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~

Synopsis:  Workaholic and single mother Francesca Ferrari is one step away from a nervous breakdown when her studious, straight-laced, 17-year-old daughter Allegra is caught with illicit drugs. Allegra is sick of being ignored by her uptight mother whose one true love is her work. And Francesca’s mother, Sophia, knows that they’re all in trouble. Sophia is concerned that her family is falling apart in front of her eyes, and she also can’t seem to shake the feeling that her health is failing, fast. Sophia declares that a summer in Italy might just be the heart-mending cure they all need to keep their family from ripping apart at the seams.

What comes next is an adventure of a lifetime as the three women embark on a journey they’ll never forget. Filled with funny family bonding moments (that may or may not include a tumble down the Spanish Steps), a gorgeous Italian backdrop, and more than a few moments of sparkling romantic chemistry, OUR ITALIAN SUMMER is a dazzling escape to Italy with surprises around every turn.

One (or more) Sentence Summary:  I think every working mother and a teenager could relate to Our Italian Summer!  We can never do the right thing, say the proper thing, be where we are supposed to be all the time, on and on.  I felt Francesca's pain. When her mother steps in with a trip to Italy for the month it seems like the perfect solution.

As predicted the Fransesca and her daughter Allegra mend their relationship and learn so much about each other.  Sophia opens up about her childhood and her love for her husband.  Relationship mending while new ones are developing.  All three ladies end up finding love interests.  Not all of them are straight forward and easy given one lives in Italy and one is going to become a priest.  Even Sophia makes plans to meet up with a "friend" she met in Paris. 

Overall, a very enjoyable book.

Would I Read Other Books by the Author: This is my first Jennifer Probst book, but I just downloaded 3 of her books on Kindle Unlimited.

Prolific New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Probst is widely adored by romance readers for her charming, sexy, and completely captivating novels. The writer of numerous chart-topping romance series, Probst’s stories are not only steamy but inspiring, featuring strong women who strive for respect and independence, making them must-reads for fans of the genre.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

When Life Gives You Luluemons

~ I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~

Synopsis (from Amazon): Welcome to Greenwich, Connecticut, where the lawns and the women are perfectly manicured, the Tito’s and sodas are extra strong, and everyone has something to say about the infamous new neighbor.

Let’s be clear: Emily Charlton does not do the suburbs. After leaving Miranda Priestly, she’s been working in Hollywood as an image consultant to the stars, but recently, Emily’s lost a few clients. She’s hopeless with social media. The new guard is nipping at her heels. She needs a big opportunity, and she needs it now.

When Karolina Hartwell, a gorgeous former supermodel, is arrested, her fall from grace is merciless. Her senator-husband leaves her, her Beltway friends disappear, and the tabloids pounce.

In Karolina, Emily finds her comeback opportunity. But she quickly learns Greenwich is a world apart and that this comeback needs a team approach.

So it is that Emily, the scorned Karolina, and their mutual friend Miriam, a powerful attorney turned stay-at-home mom, band together to navigate the social land mines of suburban Greenwich and win back the hearts of the American public. Along the way, an unexpected ally emerges in one Miranda Priestly.

With her signature wit, Lauren Weisberger offers an alluring look into a sexy, over-the-top world—and proves it’s style and substance together that gets the job done. “A delicious sequel to The Devil Wears Prada…exploring what it’s like to be a woman buffeted by conflicting messages about career, relationships, and motherhood” (The Washington Post), When Life Gives You Lululemons is “amazing novel about…truth, lies and how everyone is a little bit insecure” (Associated Press). “Fast-paced, funny, and gossipy, this is the must-have accessory for your beach bag” (PopSugar).

One (or more) Sentence Summary:  Lauren Weisberger keeps great books coming!  Another funny, enjoyable chic-lit book.  So happy to read about Emily again, okay, and Miriam!  When is the movie coming out?  Great read after the holidays and provided much needed "getaway."

Lauren Weisberger is the author of The Devil Wears Prada, which spent more than a year on the New York Times hardcover and paperback bestseller lists. The film version, starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway, won a Golden Globe Award and grossed over $300 million worldwide. Her second novel, Everyone Worth Knowing, was also a New York Times bestseller. She lives in New York City with her husband.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

This Is How It Always Is

~ I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~

Synopsis (from Amazon):  This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them.

This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated.

This is how children change…and then change the world.

This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.

When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.

Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes. 

Laurie Frankel's This Is How It Always Is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it’s about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever.

One (or more) Sentence Summary:  No matter what I type, it will not do This Is How It Always Is justice.  A story that has needed to be told for some years now. A  heartbreaking story of supporting your child no matter what.  Beautifully told must-read story.  I think this is Reese's best pick so far. 

I really want to read Laurie's Goodbye For Now.  Sounds like a tear-jerker. 

Laurie Frankel is the author of three novels: THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS (Jan. 2017), GOODBYE FOR NOW, and THE ATLAS OF LOVE. She is also the parent of one child, the minder of one border collie, the partner of one husband, the denizen of one city (Seattle), and the reader of tens of thousands of books.