Book Talk Tuesday: ON SECOND THOUGHT

I’m in love with Kristan Higgins. I’ve said it before, but she is an amazing writer with wonderful stories.

Which is why I was so disappointed by last year’s IF YOU ONLY KNEW, Higgins’ first foray into women’s fiction from romance, her wheelhouse. It was okay, but I’m trying to only review books that either I a) really love or b) received to review.

So I was reluctant to try ON SECOND THOUGHT which came out recently. I still love Kristan Higgins. I still love her romance. I just wasn’t sure I was going to love her women’s fiction.

ostTurns out I had nothing to worry about.

ON SECOND THOUGHT is the story of two sisters, Kate and Ainsley. They are actually half-sisters, born more than a couple of years apart.

When the book opens, both girls are in happy relationships. Kate is nearly forty and a newlywed who’d given up dating and trying to find her soul mate.

Ainsley has been with Eric since she was 21. She’s supported him through his career and through chemo.

Kate is suddenly widowed and Ainsley is suddenly single. They are both shocked and grieving and can’t believe what has just happened.

I loved the relationship between the sisters, and how it grew. Kate has always been more reserved while Ainsley is like a Labrador Retriever puppy. They learn to appreciate each other and their different approaches to life. Both women also get to know themselves better.

The story asks hard questions, like if you knew you’d be widowed after 96 days of marriage, would you remain single and never risk your heartbreak? Would you pour yourself into a selfish jerk if you’d been able to see his true self? And can you risk your heart a second time?

I’m so glad I risked my heart on Higgins’ second women’s fiction book. I loved it!

 

Book Talk Tuesday: The Best of 2016

In 2016 I read 70 books. Most people I know think that’s a lot. But I have friends who Education concept. Bookshelf with books as like symbol.routinely read over a hundred, even up to two hundred. That’s four books a week. Every week. All year long.

My goal is 100 books each year. I usually make it to 90. but in 2016 I fell short. I barely managed one a week. And that’s including my daily Bible and devotional book reading.

So even though I fell short in my goal, I still want to talk a bit about some of the best books I read in 2016.

I’m currently writing at Starbucks and I left the list of what I read at home, so if I can remember it without the list, that’s the sign it wasn’t just good, it was great! And has lingered with my long after I closed the last page.

So, in no particular order, my top ten books I read in 2016.

First up, I think it’s a coincidence that two of the best were audio books, but these two were truly memorable. And couldn’t be more different.

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TIFFANY GIRL by Deanne Gist won the RITA in July in the Long Historical category and it is well deserved. I loved this book for how Gist could get a hero and heroine who who so different at the beginning of the story (different lives, different values, different families, different beliefs) and bring them together in a way that seemed completely natural and unforced.

5-stagesTHE FIVE STAGES OF FALLING IN LOVE by Rachel Higginson turned out to be a delightful and moving surprise. I had never heard of Higginson, but a trusted friend highly recommended this book and she was right. It’s about a young widow, raising her four kids alone. It begins about six months after her husband’s death. Since we lost a family member recently, I so related to the stages of grief the protagonist Liz traveled, as she fell  in (and fought) new love. I laughed out loud and sobbed, sometimes at the same time, as I listened to this.

Two of my very favorite writers both deserve their mentions on this list.

wmskies-coverWILD MONTANA SKIES is the kickoff book for Susan May Warren’s new Montana Rescue series, about a Search & Rescue group in … Montana, duh. This first book was gripping, tense, and full of surprises. It ended with a hint of mystery that will be resolved in upcoming books, but it didn’t feel like a deliberate you-have-to-buy-the-next-book-to-get-the-rest-of-the-story move. The story ended organically. Just not quite everything was resolved. As it is frequently not resolved in real life.

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It’s been almost a year since I read Kristan Higgins’s ANYTHING FOR YOU, but I still remember the angst of both the hero and heroine as their relationship seemed determined to head in a direction neither wanted. She wanted to keep things light, but he kept pressing for more. He wanted a real relationship and a real life with her, but she kept refusing his proposals. Higgins is the best at humor, at tenderness, and at closing the bedroom door at the right moment.

That’s my first four, in no particular order. Come back tomorrow for more!

Book Talk Tuesday: In Your Dreams

It’s finally here! The next installment of Kristan Higgins’s Blue Heron series.

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In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins

In Your Dreams arrived in my mailbox Friday and I took it on vacation with me. We were so busy, I didn’t do much reading until we were headed home and then I devoured this one in a day and a half.

This is Jack Holland’s and Emmeline Neal’s story. We’ve met Jack before in previous Blue Heron books. His sister Faith was the star of The Best Man and Holland was the heroine of The Perfect Match.

We probably met Emmeline in a prior book too, but truly, I don’t remember her at all. I expected either Jessica or Connor to be the focus of this one.

Emmeline is one of the three-person police department of Manningsport, New York. Jack Holland is the scion of the Holland family and the winemaker at their family vineyard.

Her ex-fiance is getting married in California and she needs a date for the wedding. As horrible as attending the wedding will be, not attending will be worse. Jack is struggling with issues of his own after saving some teenagers from drowning after the car they were in crashed in front of him. Plus his own ex is in town and a weekend in the sun sounds like a good deal.

What neither Jack nor Emmeline expects (though of course, all romance readers know it’s coming) is the feelings that develop between them.

This is Higgins’s longest book yet and I was skeptical that she could hold my attention the whole way, but I loved it. There’s more backstory inserted into this one, but it didn’t slow the present story down at all, and it answered the questions Higgins so skillfully raised.

I’m a huge Kristan Higgins fan and I’m only sorry that I still have to wait for Jessica and/or Connor’s stories.

This one is great and well deserves all the raves and accolades it is sure to receive.

Book Talk Tuesday: Waiting on You

Kristan Higgins is one of the few writers whose newest book always goes on top of my Mt. TBR.

She’s so good, my superlatives needs superlatives to adequately laud this new book.

WOYfcWaiting on You has everything I love. Even a great title! I’ve mentioned a few times that with one exception, all her titles were interchangeable and I couldn’t remember which story was which.

With her new Blue Heron series, she seems to have broken out of that mold a bit. The first book in the series, The Best Man, fit the name and plot well and made it instantly recognizable. The next, The Perfect Match, while still good, was not quite identifiable enough to me. This third one, Waiting on You, is again spot-on.

Colleen O’Rourke is a Manningsport, NY fixture. She owns the local hangout/bar/restaurant with her twin brother Connor. She plays for their baseball team. She visits her grandfather at the local rest home. She flirts with the customers and fixes up couples who have potential. Her first and only love, Lucas Campbell, has obviously moved on, so why doesn’t she?

Lucas returns to Manningsport to help take care of some family matters. He doesn’t plan to spend time with Colleen, his high school and college girlfriend. Yeah, he did a dumb thing years ago, but she blew up and they weren’t able to fix it.

I love how Higgins wove the backstory of these characters so perfectly. Things hinted at early on were explained in full later. No word, no character, no scene was wasted.

Being a romance, of course we know Colleen and Lucas will work it out and get to their happily ever after. But the fun is in the journey. I’m so glad I was invited along on this one.

Highly recommended!

Book Talk Tuesday: The Perfect Match

I’ve been talking a lot about Susan Mallery recently, but it was my love for Kristan Higgins that prompted someone (likely Amazon) so suggest Mallery in the first place.

Because I’ve been reading Higgins for awhile, I’m caught up on her books and must wait with everyone else for her next.

Finally, the follow-up to The Best Man arrived in my mailbox.

It’s The Perfect Match and it’s pretty darn perfect.

I’ve noticed a trend in contemporary women’s romance and it’s more and more books are being set in an idyllic small town and the stories are about various residents. Susan Wiggs has her Lakeshore Chronicles. Debbie Macomber is in Cedar Cove. Susan May Warren lives in Deep Haven. Susan Mallery and Fool’s Gold. I’m sure there are more.

Higgins has now joined the small town series trend with these two books set in the Finger Lakes region of New York state. Her fictional Manningsport has a little over 700 people. The Best Man was Faith’s story and was set at the Blue Heron winery, just outside of town.

The Perfect Match is about Faith’s sister Honor, who made her debut in Faith’s book.

Now Honor is front and center. She wants to be married. She wants a family. But who can she meet in tiny Manningsport? She loves her job at the family winery and she loves her childhood friend and crush Brogan. They’ve been casual “friends with benefits” since college and Honor decides on her thirty-fifth birthday, to take their relationship to the next level and she proposes. He laughs. She regroups and heads home, agreeing with Brogan that it was a crazy idea.

Honor is stunned when six weeks later, Brogan and her best friend announce their engagement. Stunned and heartbroken and betrayed. And desperate to change her life. So when her grandmother offers to fix her up with the nephew of a friend who needs a green card, Honor agrees.

Tom needs to stay in the US. He’s desperate to remain connected to his almost step-son. The law and the family won’t help this kid, Tom is Charlie’s only constancy. So, even though it’s illegal and all kinds of bad things, he agrees to meet this woman.

I had some concerns about how Higgins would handle the illegality of the marriage. Of course, we know Honor and Tom are going to fall in love, but could I still respect them after they indulged in fraud.

The good news is there is no fraud. The bad news is … well, there’s no bad news.

I loved Honor and Tom, I love Higgins’ setting, and her words. She paints real characters who move off the page and into my heart and mind. The sex is off the page, another thing I love about these books and it proves that you don’t need graphic sex to engage your reader with the story and the characters.

Oops, there is one bad thing. Now I’m waiting again for her next book.