Book Talk Tuesday: THE FRIENDSHIP LIST

Ellen and Unity have been best friends since forever. Now in their mid-thirties, the women are forced to acknowledge an unpalatable truth: they’re stuck.

TFLEllen has been immersed in raising her son, Cooper, alone, and working. That’s all she’s done for the last seventeen years. When she overhears Coop tell a friend that he can’t go away to his dream school for college because his mom needs him too much, Ellen realizes she has to make some changes.

Unity’s been a widow for three years. Everyone keeps badgering her to move on, but she’s fine with where she’s at: living in her dead husband’s childhood home and sleeping in his bed. She’s got her business and her friends at the local “older adults” housing development. She’s just fine, thank you very much, but she wants to help Ellen.

Unity comes up with a list of challenges that will force both of them out of their ruts. They’ll wear bikinis in public. Get a tattoo. Sing karaoke. Unity proposes the project to make Ellen feel that Unity is trying to move on, but she has no intention of actually changing in any ways that really matter. Sure, she’ll go indoor skydiving with a nice man, but there can never be anything more between them.

The friendship between the women is genuine. They have a big fight at the beginning, but then are able to work through it.

The two male love interests are great characters. Ellen’s story line is friends to lovers with her coworker and Cooper’s coach, Keith. Keith could be a little over the top in his reactions and interactions with his teenage daughter, but it was still entertaining. Thaddeus is the perfect romantic hero: tall, dark, handsome, charming, and rich. Unity knows he’s special and worth trying to change for. If only she could.

Of course, Susan Mallery is one of my favorite authors and this book is as good as I’ve come to expect. I enjoyed it a great deal and I’ll buy a copy for my friend who loves her, too.


I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but it did not induce me to review it, favorably or not.

 

Book Talk Tuesday: LONGING TO BELONG

LtBShawna Marie Bryant has written a book “for such a time as this.”

When we’re inundated with messages of what we should look like, how we should decorate our homes, feed our families, and which causes to support, she helps us to see that it’s not the world and social media that give us value and meaning, it’s God.

Based on Psalm 139, Shawna shares a Manifesto of acceptance and solid Bible-based teaching that will help any reader who has struggled to feel like they’re enough, that they’re accepted, and that they belong.

God created us, He knows us, He is always with us. These are just a few of the points Shawna expands on in this excellent book. She balances her teaching with real-life examples and encouragement.

I highly recommend this book and plan to buy more copies for my daughters and friends.


I received a free advance e-copy of this book via NetGalley, but that did not induce me to review it, either positively or negatively.

Book Talk Tuesday: A LONG TIME COMIN’

I love celebrating debut novels. When they’re good, I’m soooo happy. When they’re great, I’m ecstatic.

ALTC

A LONG TIME COMIN’ by Robin W. Pearson made me beyond giddy. It’s lovely, with a strong voice, memorable characters, and an engrossing story with repercussions that reach through the generations.

Evelyn Lester has a problem. Several of them. She visits her mother to sort them out and ends up spending a lot of time with her elderly grandmother. Granny B. has her own problems and secrets.

The two women must come to an understanding as they help each other navigate through uncharted territory of family and relationships.

I highly recommend it!

I got to meet Robin last year when we were both in Charleston, South Carolina. Our agents are at the same agency. She’s as lovely in person as her book is beautiful. I’m so excited to celebrate her debut novel with her and I can’t wait for y’all to read it!

I did not receive a free advance copy of A LONG TIME COMIN’. I bought it because I knew it would be great and I’m so happy I did. You will be too!

Book Talk Tuesday: A COTTAGE WEDDING

A Cottage Wedding is the perfect summer romance read. Two likable characters who are perfect for each other, though they have real issues to deal with that are keeping them apart. But you’re confident they’ll figure a way to make it work.

ACWTara Stewart is a lowly editorial assistant at a wedding magazine, yearning to prove herself a serious journalist. She gets her chance when her boss gives her an assignment: do an expose’ on Hearts Landing, the idyllic town that’s been the nation’s leading wedding destination for the last several years.

Unfortunately, Hearts Landing is just as perfect as it seems. More so, since Jason Heart is overseeing everything. Jason is the great-great-great-grandson of the town’s founder and the basis of many legends contributing to Hearts Landing’s reputation as a romantic destination.

As Tara and Jason grow closer, Tara has to make a choice: get that promotion and ruin Jason’s heritage and livelihood, or surrender her journalistic ethics and get fired.

Even though I saw the dilemma coming from the beginning, I thought the author handled it well and resolved it sensibly.

This is an excellent book with lots of fun wedding details and other characters worked into the story. Hearts Landing is as much a character as Tara and Jason.

Definitely recommended.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but it did not induce me to review it, either favorably or not.

Book Talk Tuesday on a Thursday: A Highlander Comes to Town

I’m sad to see this series come to an end. I’ve loved visiting Highland, Georgia and getting to know some Scots in the South.
HICTTA Highlander is Coming to Town is (finally) Holt Pierson’s story. We met Holt in Trentham’s previous two Highlander stories. Holt has made his peace with staying in Highland to run the family farm. Claire Smythe is on the run from something and takes refuge in Highland after the summer games. She’s taken a job as a caregiver for Holt’s neighbor and is spending the time trying to figure out what to do after her upcoming birthday. Because she has a big secret she can’t share with anyone. Although she’s clear upfront that she’ll soon be returning to Scotland right after Christmas.
Inevitably, the sparks between Holt and Claire combust. And as all secrets must, Claire’s come to light. And Claire and Holt’s simple fling is anything but.
I enjoy these books for their simplicity, their taste of Scotland, their humor. Sometimes I need an escape and these books supply that exactly.
A Highlander is Coming to Town is a Christmas story, complete with a winter storm, hot chocolate, and a heartwarming ending. The perfect holiday read. It will be released in late September, so mark your calendars for September 29, 2020.
I highly recommend it!
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I received an advance e-copy of this book via NetGalley, but it did not induce me to leave a review, complimentary or not.

Book Talk Tuesday: The Life Intended

Somewhere in my web browsing, I came across a book recommendation. Several people raved about the book and the author, someone new to me.

So I bought a used copy.

Well.

This book hooked me from the beginning.

THE LIFE INTENDED.

the-life-intended-9781476754154The description begins: Sliding Doors meets P.S. I Love You in this richly told novel …

We meet the heroine, Kate, twelve years after her husband was killed the morning after he said he had something important to tell her. He died before he had the chance.

It’s been long enough, and everyone is telling Kate she has to move on. And she kind of has. She’s living with a man. He’s proposed and she accepted. But then she starts having some very vivid dreams. About Patrick and the life they would have had if he hadn’t died.

The dreams lead her to make some choices and do some things … I don’t want to give too much away.

This is a lovely, tender, exquisite book about what might have been, but what is, and learning to accept that both are right and okay.

In absolutely unrelated news, I’ve been buying books faster than I can read them. So while I fell in love with this one, I have so far resisted the urge to buy any more from Kristin Harmel. Although I’m remembering her name and will definitely be getting more from her when I whittle down the obscene stack on my desk.

 

Book Talk Tuesday: THE LAGER QUEEN OF MINNESOTA

I’d been hearing great things about this book, so I picked up the electronic version. It has an intriguing title and lots of rave reviews.

TLQoMThere are several timelines in the book, but I didn’t have a problem following the unfolding story. By the end, some characters’ assumptions are proven wrong and others are proven right.

I love stories about reconciliation and I wasn’t sure this was going to provide that. If that’s you too, just hang in there.

Edith and Helen are sisters who go forty years without speaking because Helen was given the family farm (literally) and didn’t share with Edith. Helen put all the proceeds into her fledgling beer brewery. Edith and her family struggle to make ends meet and any part of the sale money would have helped.

Edith’s granddaughter is given an opportunity to learn brewing and the beer business. Eventually the whole family is involved in brewing and marketing beer, especially IPAs.

If you’ve ever wondered about the process for turning hops and yeast and grain into beer, this will give you a primer. But the information wasn’t overwhelming, and added to the enjoyment of the book. The only thing missing as I read was a hot day and a hoppy IPA on the back patio.

I highly recommend THE LAGER QUEEN OF MINNESOTA!

Book Talk Tuesday: BURDEN OF PROMISE

Today the disclaimer goes upfront: I know the author, Ralaine Fagone, personally. I didn’t know her when the events she describes in her book took place. I met her some years after when she began to write about the murder, arrests and trials. She joined a local writers’ group I was part of and she had a column in a magazine. The group critiqued Ralaine’s columns, then later, when she decided to write a book, she joined another group who helped her. I also did some editing for her, as well as proofreading and copyediting. Also, Ralaine furnished me with a free digital copy of the finished book for this review. So, since I strive to be “fair and balanced,” I want to put all those caveats out here.


Fresno, California has a few claims to fame/infamy. It’s on the way to Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks. The Underground Gardens. Raisins. Home of some pretty good sports teams (National Championship Women’s Softball, National Championship Men’s Baseball, as well as NFL players Trent Dilfer, David Carr, Derek Carr, Lorenzo Neal, Ryan Matthews, …). Searing summer temperatures. A satirical 1980s mini-series starring Carol Burnett, modeled after Falcon Crest and Dynasty. And the Acid Lady Murder.

In 2003, Ralaine’s son, James, was arrested for the kidnapping and murder of his former employer’s estranged husband. Larissa and Tim Schuster were separated and fighting over custody of their son, Tyler, as well as property. Although no longer working at Larissa’s lab, James still helped Larissa by house-sitting and hanging out with twelve-year-old Tyler.

When Tim disappeared, Larissa was questioned and released. James was also questioned, but not released because he confessed to … well, here is where things get murky. Did he confess to the murder? The police and prosecutors say yes. James says he didn’t know Larissa planned to murder Tim and he thought they were going to retrieve some of Larissa’s property. He says he confessed to helping her rob Tim, then he got pulled into being an accomplice when the robbery escalated to murder. Tim’s body was put into a barrel and acid from Larissa’s lab was poured in to destroy the remains.

Ralaine walks the reader through her feelings during that time. Her devastation at the arrest. Her horror at the details of the murder. Also, the months leading up to the arrest, when James’ life took a radical departure from the path he’d been on. As a Christian, Ralaine raised her children to follow God and His precepts, trusting that if she did that, God would keep His end of their “bargain,” and her children would be “good,” and stay out of trouble, and have happy lives. With James’ arrest, all her beliefs about God, faith, and her church came under scrutiny. And not all survived intact.

The reader will experience Ralaine’s emotions. She is honest and vulnerable. The book is more than the story of the Fagone and Schuster families and the murder and trials. The book is part memoir, part true-crime story, part Christian Living, but totally compelling.


Ralaine is offering a free print copy of BURDEN OF PROMISE to a blog reader who comments below. Tell me about a time you were shocked and saddened by a story in the news.

 

 

Book Talk Tuesday: SISTERS BY CHOICE

I love opening new books by my favorites authors and a new book by Susan Mallery qualifies in every way.

SISTERS BY CHOICE is her newest and it’s my favorite read of the year so far. We return to Blackberry Island, off the coast of Washington state, in Puget Sound, and spend time with three cousins.

Sophie has just returned to the island to rebuild her cat toy/supplies business after a fire destroyed it in Southern California. She ignores helpful suggestions that she let her employees do their jobs while she does hers. She’s the one who grew the company singlehandedly. She’s the one who knows the company better than anyone else. She’s the one who works tirelessly for the company. She’s also the one who threatens the future of her beloved company by her dogged determination to do it all.

cover-sisters-by-choiceKristine loves life as a homemaker, her husband, and their three sons. She also loves her side career baking the cookies and brownies she sells to local tasting rooms, even as she dreams about opening her own bakery. Because her husband isn’t supportive, Kristine keeps those dreams to herself. Until the perfect location becomes available. Then Kristine may have to choose between her family and her own dreams.

Twenty-year-old Heather skipped going to college off the island to stay home and take financial care of her indolent and demanding mother. She feels trapped and resentful. Sophie bringing her business to Blackberry Island means Heather can quit two of her part-time jobs for one full-time job with the cat toy company. But as Heather learns about business and real life, she also learns she has to take care of herself before she can take care of anyone else.

Mallery writes romance and women’s fiction. SISTERS BY CHOICE is women’s fiction, with a dash of romance. Sophie is determined to stay single, but she meets a man who is just as determined that they deserve a future together. Kristine and her husband have a happy marriage on the outside, but when Kristine shares her dreams, it turns out they have some deep issues that need to be worked out.

I enjoyed seeing all three women grapple with their problems and emerge stronger and with better lives than they thought possible at the beginning of the book. They were cousins, but they support and love each other as sisters should.

I love this book and highly recommend it!


I received a free copy of this book, but that did not induce me to review it favorably.

Book Talk Tuesday on a Thursday: THE STORY OF US

It’s a twofer this week. Because I have a review already scheduled for next Tuesday, and I don’t want to let this one go another week.

THE STORY OF US is a charming tale that would be a perfect Hallmark Valentine’s movie. Oh wait! It is a Hallmark Valentine’s movie!

TSOUJamie Vaughn owns the perfect bookshop, True Love books, in the perfect town, Waterford, Oregon. Okay, maybe life isn’t perfect. The downtown business district has been losing stores and a redevelopment company is poised to swoop in and buy up the area, closing her shop. And she’s on a romantic hiatus. Her heart just can’t seem to get over her high school boyfriend who broke up with her when he left for college across the country while she stayed in Oregon for school. Her most recent sort-of-boyfriend took a job in Texas. He asked her to move with him, but she couldn’t leave her bookstore.

Sawyer O’Dell has to nail this next job and he’ll be offered a permanent position with the company. No more freelancing and living out of a suitcase. If only it didn’t mean returning to Waterford, where he graduated from high school and left behind his high school girlfriend. They were too young to be that serious, so he knew it was for the best, even if it hurt and even if he’d never met anyone else who made him feel like Jamie did. So he has to get this bid accepted. His design for the business district redevelopment is good and he knows he can sell the business owners on it.

Except he hadn’t counted on running into Jamie as soon as he arrives back in town. And he hadn’t counted on her determination to save her shop–and the business district.

The plot of THE STORY OF US is somewhat formulaic. This is a Hallmark romance, after all. We know how it’s going to end. But that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the story. There’s a lovely secondary plot about Jamie’s friend, Lucy, and Sawyer’s friend, Rick.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book, and I can whole♥edly recommend it.


I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but it did not induce me to review it, either favorably or not.