Friday, July 11, 2014

Review & Giveaway: The House on Mermaid Point by Wendy Wax






Paperback, 416 pages
Expected publication: July 1st 2014 by Berkley Trade

ISBN:0425263320 (ISBN13: 9780425263327)                
edition language: English


From Goodreads:
In this new novel from the author of Ten Beach Road and Ocean Beach, three unlikely friends who were thrown together by disaster get a do-over on life, love, and happiness . . .

Maddie, Avery, and Nikki first got to know one another—perhaps all too well—while desperately restoring a beachfront mansion to its former grandeur. Now they’re putting that experience to professional use. But their latest project has presented some challenges they couldn’t have dreamed up in their wildest fantasies—although the house does belong to a man who actually was Maddie’s wildest fantasy once . . .

Rock-and-roll legend “William the Wild” Hightower may be past his prime, estranged from his family, and creatively blocked, but he’s still worshiped by fans—which is why he guards his privacy on his own island in the Florida Keys. He’s not thrilled about letting this crew turn his piece of paradise into a bed-and-breakfast for a reality show . . . though he is intrigued by Maddie. Hard as that is for her to believe as a newly single woman who can barely manage a dog paddle in the dating pool.

But whether it’s an unexpected flirtation with a bona fide rock star, a strained mother-daughter relationship, or a sudden tragedy, these women are in it together. The only thing that might drive them apart is being trapped on a houseboat with one bathroom . .
   


My thoughts: I've read the two previous books, Ten Beach Road and Ocean Beach, with these characters and loved them. Reading The House on Mermaid Point was like visiting with old friends after too long an absence. So much fun to catch up with the ladies and see what new antics they are up to with their latest adventure! Wax is so adept at creating a sense of place. I could feel the heat from the Florida sun and sense the calm of the surroundings. With some changes made in character status, already I can't wait for the next book in the series.

Highly recommended for fans of contemporary fiction and women's stories. 4****

Wendy Wax can be found on her website, Goodreads and on Facebook.

Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by in exchange for my honest opinion.

Now for the fabulous news; through the generosity of Berkley, one giveaway copy of the book is available  to US residents. Just leave a comment saying  WHY you would like to be entered in the giveaway. Be sure to leave an e mail address in your comment.


Deadline to enter is July 25th at 6:00 PM


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Review: The Wild Dark Flowers: a Novel of Rutherford Park by Elizabeth Cooke




Paperback, 368 pages
Expected publication: July 1st 2014 by Berkley Trade

ISBN: 0425262596 (ISBN13: 9780425262597)

From Goodreads:
"When May came that year in Rutherford, it was more beautiful than anyone could ever remember. More beautiful, and more terrible…

From inside their sprawling estate of Rutherford Park, the Cavendish family had a privileged perspective of the world. On the first morning in May, 1915, with a splendid view that reached across the gardens to the Vale of York, nothing seemed lovelier or less threatening. And yet…

At the risk of undoing the Cavendish name with scandal, William and Octavia Cavendish have been living a lie, maintaining a marriage out of duty rather than passion. But when their son Harry joins the Royal Flying Corps in France, the Cavendish family are forced to face the unavoidable truths about themselves, the society in which they thrive, and the secrets they can no longer bear.

In the wake of a terrible war, the emotional shifts between a husband and a wife, a wife and her lover, and a mother and her children, will shake the very foundation of the Cavendish family, and change the uniquely vulnerable lives of all who reside at Rutherford Park."



My Thoughts:   

The Wild Dark Flowers: A Novel of Rutherford Park has been compared to Downton Abbey. This is an excellent comparison as Rutherford is set during the same interesting historical timeframe and is an in-depth look at life on a large English estate during WW1. With  rich  lush descriptions, a mesmerizing sense of place, The Wild Dark Flowers had me hooked from page 1.  Not just an intriguing character study but an eye opening social commentary on the changing times.

 War is a great leveler: it affected everyone  whether upstairs or downstairs, everyone has their story.
Cooke did a fabulous job of bringing her numerous characters to life and giving them a unique voice.

I loved the surprise ending and can't wait for the next book in the series Very enjoyable read. 4****

Even though this is the second book in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone.

Elizabeth Cooke is a Goodreads author and can be found on her page. She can also be found on her webpage and on Facebook.


Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by The Penguin Group/Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.




Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Review: The Beekepers Ball by Susan Wiggs



Hardcover, 368 pages
Expected publication: June 24th 2014 by Harlequin MIRA (first published January 1st 2014)

ISBN: 0778314480 (ISBN13: 9780778314486)                
edition language: English
From Goodreads:

Isabel Johansen, a celebrated chef who grew up in the sleepy Sonoma town of Archangel, is transforming her childhood home into a destination cooking school—a unique place for other dreamers to come and learn the culinary arts. Bella Vista's rambling mission-style hacienda, with its working apple orchards, bountiful gardens and beehives, is the idyllic venue for Isabel's project…and the perfect place for her to forget the past.

But Isabel's carefully ordered plans begin to go awry when swaggering, war-torn journalist Cormac O'Neill arrives to dig up old history. He's always been better at exposing the lives of others than showing his own closely-guarded heart, but the pleasures of small-town life and the searing sensuality of Isabel's kitchen coax him into revealing a few truths of his own.

The dreamy sweetness of summer is the perfect time of year for a grand family wedding and the enchanting Beekeeper's Ball, bringing emotions to a head in a story where the past and present collide to create an unexpected new future.


My thoughts: In The Apple Orchard, first book in the Bella Vista Chronicles series, we are introduced to Isabel, her half-sister Tess and her grandfather Magnus, owner of Bella Vista. What a complicated history this family shares. I really enjoyed getting to know them.

Wiggs continues their story in The Beekeeper's Ball while filling in a lot of Magnus's back story, how he came to the United States from Denmark right after WWII and started the orchard in the little town of Archangel. I Love the dual storyline format: present day California and Denmark in the early 1940's. The present day story is a lot about Isabel,  her acceptance of possible romance in her life and her desire to make Bella Vista a destination cooking school.


With lush descriptions and sense of place, rich characterizations and a plot that just won't quit,I  loved it, loved it, loved it!

Oh, yeah, about the twist at the end? That promises to be most intriguing making me very impatient for the next in the series. 5*****

 Susan Wiggs can be found on her Goodreads page and on her Facebook page and her web page.

Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by Harlequin MIRA/Netgalley  in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review: The Promise by Robyn Carr




Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Expected publication: June 24th 2014 by Harlequin MIRA


ISBN: 0778316203 (ISBN13: 9780778316206)                
edition language: English

From Goodreads:

Scott Grant has a bustling family practice in the small Oregon community of Thunder Point. The town and its people have embraced the widowed doctor and father of two, his children are thriving, and Scott knows it's time to move on from his loss. But as the town's only doctor, the dating scene is awkward. That is, until a stunning physician's assistant applies for a job at his clinic.

Peyton Lacoumette considers herself entirely out of the dating scene. She's already been burned by a man with kids, and she's come to Thunder Point determined not to repeat past mistakes. When Scott offers her a job, at a much lower salary than she's used to, Peyton is surprisingly eager to accept…at least for now. She's willing to stay for a three-month trial period while she explores other options.

Scott and Peyton know the arrangement is temporary—it isn't enough time to build a real relationship, never mind anything with lasting commitment. But love can blossom faster than you think when the timing is right, and this short visit just might hold the promise of forever.
   

My Thoughts:


Every book is this series is wonderful, the magic just keeps on happening. Robyn Carr can write a romance and stories of family like no one else. All her books are so enjoyable, I haven't found one yet that I didn't like. I just couldn't put this one down. It was so interesting to read of the Basque culture and I just loved all the characters. Okay, there was one or two I could have given a dummy slap to but the rest of the recurring characters was a nice catch-up with old friends.

Highly recommended for fans of romance, family stories and contemporary fiction. 5****


Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by Harlequin MIRA/Netgalley  in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review: That Summer by Lauren Willig






Hardcover, 352 pages
Expected publication: June 3rd 2014 by St. Martin's Press

ISBN: 1250014506 (ISBN13: 9781250014504)                
edition language: English
When Julia inherits a house in England from an aunt she has never heard of, she thinks it's a hoax. Her stoic father assures her it is real. He remembers the house. Not that he ever told Julia any of this but that's just the way he is.

Julia decides to go to England and check out her windfall thinking she would clean it up a little and sell it. Well, little did she know she would get caught up in her family's history, treasures and secrets.

Told from two different time frames, present day and mid-nineteenth century, Willig presents two intriguing tales. Sometimes, with dual time frames, I find one story grabs me a bit more than the other. Not so with That Summer, I got caught up in both of them and couldn't wait to see how it all panned out.

Excellent sense of place, well developed characters, fluid dialogue and a wonderful plot line made for an enchanting read. 4****

Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by St. Martin's Press in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Spotlight: Here and Again by Nicole R. Dickson and The Never Never Sisters by L. Alison Heller




These look and sound like good ones.  Release day is today. Don't miss them!


Paperback, 400 pages

Expected publication: June 3rd 2014 by NAL Trade



Deep in the Shenandoah Valley, the present and the past are as restless as the river mists. And when they collide, the heart is the only compass pointing home.



For nurse Ginger Martin, her late husband’s farm is both a treasured legacy and the harbinger of an uncertain future. Since he was recently killed in Iraq, every day is fraught with grief that won’t abate. Keeping the farm going and nourishing her children’s hopes without him seems as impossible as having dreams for the future—or going back into the past....



By a curious coincidence, a stranger appears in Ginger’s life, always showing up to help in unexpected and much-needed ways. He says he’s a soldier, lost and trying to make his way home, but Ginger understands that Samuel is a kindred spirit, longing to repair a life interrupted. The challenges of their hopes and longings will test who they really are in the most heartbreaking of ways. And only by coming to terms with their losses and the necessity of change will Ginger and Samuel be able to each make a future of their own—and discover at last where their true home lies....



Paperback, 352 pages
Expected publication: June 3rd 2014 by NAL Trade

ISBN: 0451416244 (ISBN13: 9780451416247)
From Goodreads:

An absorbing, highly entertaining novel about family secrets, The Never Never Sisters introduces you to the strong-willed and big-hearted Reinhardt women, as they reunite one summer in New York. Gifted storyteller L. Alison Heller has written another witty and moving page-turner that will captivate readers and keep them guessing right up until the satisfying end.

Sometimes you just need to get away….

Marriage counselor Paige Reinhardt is counting down the days to summer, eager to reconnect with her workaholic husband at their cozy rental cottage in the Hamptons. But soon a mysterious crisis at Dave’s work ruins their getaway plans. Paige is still figuring out how to handle the unexplained chill in her marriage when her troubled sister suddenly returns after a two-decade silence. Now, instead of enjoying the lazy summer days along the ocean, Paige is navigating the rocky waters of a forgotten bond with her sister in the sweltering city heat.

As she attempts to dig deeper into Dave’s work troubles and some long-held family secrets, Paige is shocked to discover how little she knows about the people closest to her. This summer, the self-proclaimed relationship expert will grapple with her biggest challenge yet: Is it worth risking your most precious relationships in order to find yourself?


Monday, May 26, 2014

Review: Simple Faith by Anna Schmidt


Paperback, 320 pages

Published March 1st 2014 by Shiloh Run Press

ISBN: 162029141X (ISBN13: 9781620291412)

series: Peacemakers #2


From Goodreads:



After losing her beloved husband and daughter and surviving Hitler’s Sobibor death camp, Quaker widow Anja Steinberg dedicates her life to helping others and keeping her son safe. As a member of the resistance, she helps displaced Allied airmen get back to their units in England. The journey is rigorous and filled with danger and there is no time for romance. Anja knows that Mikel, her fellow resistance worker, loves her. He would make a good husband and father for her son, but she doesn’t share his feelings. Is friendship enough? Then American Peter Trent parachutes into her life. She must face facts—her heart did not die with her late husband and true love could be hers again. But marrying Mikel may be the only way she can save Peter.

My thoughts: Combine a love for WWII fiction, Christian fiction, and  stories of courageous people, Simple Faith ticked all the boxes perfectly. What a wonderful story this is! I was engaged immediately with the characters. I could feel my heart rate speed up at the very beginning and just knew this story would really grab me by the heart and not let go.


Schmidt was at the top of her game with this book;  her sense of place was done to perfection and  it was as if I were right there with these very likeable characters. Never once did the narrative lag nor did it ever disappoint me.  Even though this is the second book in a trilogy, it read as a stand-alone. I loved it!  5*****

Anna Schmidt, the author of numerous books, can be found on her Goodreads page and on her website.


Highly recommended for fans of romance, Christian fiction, WWII stories, ordinary people doing extraordinary deeds and tales of courageous women.



Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by Barbour Publishing  in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Review: The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin






Paperback, 384 pages
Expected publication: June 3rd 2014 by NAL Trade

ISBN: 0451465822 (ISBN13: 9780451465825)


From Goodreads:

From Paris in the 1920s to London after the Blitz, two women find that a secret from their past reverberates through years of joy and sorrow....

As recovery from World War II begins, expat American Nora Tours travels from her home in southern France to London in search of her missing sixteen-year-old daughter. There, she unexpectedly meets up with an old acquaintance, famous model-turned-photographer Lee Miller. Neither has emerged from the war unscathed. Nora is racked with the fear that her efforts to survive under the Vichy regime may have cost her daughter’s life. Lee suffers from what she witnessed as a war correspondent photographing the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.

Nora and Lee knew each other in the heady days of late 1920s Paris, when Nora was giddy with love for her childhood sweetheart, Lee became the celebrated mistress of the artist Man Ray, and Lee’s magnetic beauty drew them all into the glamorous lives of famous artists and their wealthy patrons. But Lee fails to realize that her friendship with Nora is even older, that it goes back to their days as children in Poughkeepsie, New York, when a devastating trauma marked Lee forever. Will Nora’s reunion with Lee give them a chance to forgive past betrayals…and break years of silence to forge a meaningful connection as women who have shared the best and the worst that life can offer?

A novel of freedom and frailty, desire and daring, The Beautiful American portrays the extraordinary relationship between two passionate, unconventional women.


My thoughts:


Told from Nora's point of view as she looks back on her journey from Poughkeepsie to Paris to London. When she left Poughkeepsie with Jamie, she thought her life would be one long romantic fairy-tale. It was anything but. The use of a single narrator made this feel more like a memoir and occasionally it was a bit tedious reading, especially in part one. For me, the story started out a bit choppy and at times, more "tell me" than "show me".  I think it would have helped if we, as readers,
saw the events from several more viewpoints. Even though at times it was an  interesting peek into the  pre-war Paris artistic scene, it felt like a recitation of name dropping and non-events.


Part two really picked up the pace. It became much more interesting with more character development and flow to the story. I liked the bit of mystery of what happened to Nora's daughter and the sense of place was well done. The book ended up being a 3.5* read instead of a 2.5*.





Disclosure: An e-galley of the book was provided by Nal/Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.




Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: Breath of Spring by Charlotte Hubbard


Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by Zebra

ISBN: 1420133071 (ISBN13: 9781420133073)
edition language : English

From Goodreads:
As a bright season brings a fresh start to Willow Ridge, Annie Mae Knepp feels she can never make peace with the past. Her disgraced ex-bishop father is furious she has taken her five siblings to live with her. She's never been truly at home in her faith. . .or believing in herself. And Annie Mae fears no man will want to take on the responsibilities she's gladly shouldered. True, her quiet neighbor Adam Wagler has been steadfast and unshakeable helping her through her trials, but he surely couldn't think of someone so lost as more than a friend. Believing she is unworthy because of her doubts, Annie Mae will find in a moment of surprising revelation that God can work impossible miracles--and that love makes all things new.


My thoughts:

 Not too sure what it is about Amish fiction that draws me in so quickly but maybe it is the seeming simplicity of their lives. The Amish seem to know what is expected of them and generally they do that. I've read the other three in the series and enjoyed them tremendously, although this one seemed a little more "preachy" than the previous three. Even so, the first three in the series captivated me with the varied characters and situations.

 Miriam has her own story going on as well as her three daughters. I really liked Miriam, the mother of the triplets, and her dedication to her faith, family, and her cafe business. In this fourth book, Hubbard branches out to another Willow Ridge family member, Annie Mae Knepp. We had met her father, Hiram, in the first book. Hubbard did a terrific job of bringing Hiram, as well as all the other characters,  to life. There's not usually a villain as nefarious as Hiram Knepp but this character, Annie Mae's father, definitely filled the bill as villain. I think it added to the reality of the series that not all people are perfect and some people are just downright deplorable despite their religious title.

Recommended for fans of family sagas, romance, Christian fiction. 3.5***


Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by Kensington/Netgalley  in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review: Black Lake by Johanna Lane




Hardcover, 224 pages
Expected publication: May 20th 2014 by Little, Brown and Company

ISBN: 0316228834 (ISBN13: 9780316228831)                
edition language: English


Black Lake tells the story of John and Marianne Campbell along with their two children Philip and Kate.

It was most interesting to see how each family member reacted to and thought about the financial necessity of moving out of Dulough, the manor house, into the damp and cramped caretaker's cottage. When financial and social status changed for the worse, the results dramatically altered the family dynamics with some tragic repercussions.

Told from different view points of each character, but mostly John's and Philip's, the reader is privy to family secrets, hopes, dreams, expectations and disappointments. Each character looks back over the events that led them to the present day. Through inner dialogue and hindsight, Lane brings her characters vividly to life. Very quickly they became real people to me. Even after closing the last page, the characters resonated with me for quite a while.

The house has such a presence, it is in itself like another character.

"It is not difficult to think of the house as a consciousness, a repository of events, its breath whistling through the walls, our lives playing over and over again in its memory."



Such beautiful writing!

I really enjoyed this story, the characters and the lovely, descriptive writing. The sense of place was so well done, I could feel the atmosphere of the  isolated, windy rain swept Irish coast. Highly recommended for fans of contemporary fiction and stories of family. 4.5****


Johanna Lane, a Goodreads author, grew up in Ireland and now lives in New York City.


Disclosure: A review copy of the book was provided by Little, Brown and Company in exchange for my honest opinion.