Monday, October 16, 2017

The Importance of Being Me by Caroline Grace-Cassidy, A Review

The Importance of Being Me

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Book Description

When was the last time you put yourself first?

Thirty-eight-year-old divorcee Courtney Downey has no idea who she is any more. She has devoted her life to bringing up her beloved 15-year-old daughter Susan, but Courtney just doesn’t get the celebrity-obsessed, Snapchat-filtered teenage world Susan is part of, and they’re growing apart. When Susan announces she wants to live with her dad and his new, younger girlfriend, Courtney is devastated. But could the end of one life be the beginning of another?

When Courtney is offered a job in beautiful, sun-kissed Cornwall, she and her vivacious best friend Claire follow their hearts and leave their problems behind for a summer of sand, sea and second chances. And when she meets sexy but infuriating builder Tony, Courtney rediscovers her passions for life, for cooking and for love.

But just as Courtney is finally looking to the future, a crisis with Susan pulls her back to Dublin, and back into old habits. Will she ever be able to let go of the past and embrace the importance of being herself?

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

This book follows Courtney for the most part as she begins to make a new life for herself after her husband leaves her, a fact that she does not feel bad about, in fact wanted him to be out of the picture. While the demise of her marriage is no big thing, the crumbling relationship with her daughter causes her immense despair....or does it? This is one area that I felt like the author wanted to convey but I'm not a true believer. On the surface it seems that Courtney is torn about taking a job promotion that requires relocating to her dream town yet uprooting her daughter. Her best friend Claire has a marital crisis of her own and the two decide to chase adventure together, leaving their problems behind. The title of the book is repeated several times throughout the book as justification for the decisions the two women make. For me, as I contemplate the book, the message is somewhat about accepting who you are and being comfortable with that (which I believe was the author's intention), but there is a very strong theme of selfishness running throughout the book in all the characters. The best example I can give is that as Courtney considers the promotion, all her thoughts center around what it will mean for her and never does she wonder at the implications it will have on her daughter. 
The friendship between Courtney and Claire was one of encouragement and honesty. It was written in a fresh perspective compared to some other female friendship focused books I've recently read. While I had issues with the self-centered nature of the characters, I did enjoy reading the story. Grace-Cassidy has an easy writing style that is quick to read and I'd pick up her previous books to read.

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Nick Newton is Not a Genius by S.E.M. Ishida, A Review

Product Details

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Book Description

Nick Newton is not a Genius. He’s just a merely average boy from the country of Thauma. He may not be brilliant like his mom and dad or a child prodigy like his sister, but he won’t let that stop him from uncovering the mysteries of a clockwork factory or revealing a war hero’s greatest secret. With help from two new friends and his butler named Jude, Nick embarks on an adventure that will change his life forever.
Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

What a fun middle grade read! Nick is surrounded by a family of geniuses yet finds out that he is only normal. And yet, it doesn't seem to bother him all that much - he knows his parents still love him. The beginning of the book focuses on Nick finding a box of parts and a diagram for them left by his grandfather, another genius inventor and war hero. He wants to put the pieces together but faces multiple failures. I loved how each failure ended with Nick's resolve to try again the next day. The second half of the book focuses on Nick and his quest to learn more about his grandfather and has him working to open a trunk in the attic. It was fun to see how Nick tackled his research. I would read more books about Nick and his quirky and fun family!

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Memory of Butterflies by Grace Greene, A Review

The Memory of Butterflies by Grace Greene

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Book Description
(see full synopsis at Goodreads)

To keep a devastating family secret from being revealed, a young mother’s desperate lies could end up destroying everything, and everyone, she loves. The Memory of Butterflies is a poignant story of family and forgiveness—of knowing when to let go and when to hold each other close.

Review

Source: Goodreads giveaway prize. Here is my honest review.

I was intrigued from the moment I first read the following on page 1: "...including the memory of how I lost my Ellen seventeen years ago, then found her again."

In The Memory of Butterflies, Greene explores several themes, the strongest of which is love, specifically a mother's love. In Hannah's story, it is clear that this is a love that is boundless and not reserved solely for those grown inside our womb.

The story alternates between present day and flashing back to the past from Hannah's teenage years and moving forward to the present. The story is not a new one (young girl unexpectedly pregnant and left to raise a baby without help from the father) but it is engrossing. Hannah is such a strong and independent female character that one can't hardly believe she fell for the dashing and manipulative teen boy while also knowing that without a doubt she will be a wonderful and dedicated mother who will rise to the struggles of motherhood (single or not). 

In short, Hannah's story is so engrossing that I couldn't put the book down. I had to finally concede defeat with about 80% left as I was bleary eyed and knew that I didn't want to miss any of the conclusion. I was awake before dawn and reaching for the book to find out what happens and what consequences Hannah will face for the decisions she made as a young mother. 

And oh my - those decisions.....I can so easily see how Hannah chose what she did and I do not fault one bit. Not one. And it's a good thing the really important people in her life don't fault her either. It's summed up so beautifully here: "We all make mistakes, right? Some we can take back. Some we can’t.” Or wouldn’t even if we could, I added silently." (pg 172) Oh Hannah, what you did - loving a child, wholly and completely and unselfishly - could never be a mistake. 

I am so thankful to Amazon Publishing for offering this as a giveaway and grateful to have been a winner! This book is a treasure.

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Second Acts by Teri Emory, A Review

Second Acts by Teri Emory

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Book Description

From midtown Manhattan to a Florida suburb, from coastal Savannah to the hills of Rome, the interwoven tales of three lives unfold in the voices of Sarah, Miriam, and Beth. Their unshakable friendship takes root in a Buffalo college dorm in the late 1960s. Fueled by the optimism and bravado of that era, they charge into adulthood with lofty ideas and high expectations. They were, as Beth would later observe, “the first generation of women who felt entitled to interesting lives.” 

They remain friends for decades, trading secrets, sharing joys, and shepherding each other through heartache. Little by little, they come to terms with a disconcerting postscript to the Age of Aquarius: Life—inevitably, unsparingly, repeatedly—demands compromise. 

In the year leading up to 9/ 11, the three women, now middle aged, are tested by unwelcome drama at home, unforeseen challenges at work, and unresolved conflicts about decisions made long ago. Sustained by their abiding friendship, the three confront hard truths about themselves and the choices they have made. They must dispel past regrets and make peace with present circumstances as they begin the second acts of their lives.

Second Acts is a story of love, loss, and renewal, and a testament to the enduring power of friendship.

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

Despite taking very different paths after college, the women in Second Acts remained the best of friends and knew everything about each other....they had such a deep bond.  Emory mastered telling each of their stories in the present as well as delving into their past. 
The main characters are so well developed and I love seeing how each of them finds the inner strength to tackle the individual trial she is facing and theme of perseverance that permeates the book. I'm also encouraged by the idea that life isn't over when your children are raised and out of the house; there's always a way to make a new path for yourself, if you are only brave enough to forge it.

I hate spoiling the plot for books so all I can say is that I loved this book so much it's on my "best of 2017" shelf and I highly encourage you to read it. 



I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Monday, October 9, 2017

Once and Forever by Mary Blayney

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Book Description

Please see Goodreads page for a full description.

From five compelling authors, five original novellas which will make you laugh and cry, and believe in a love that once found will last forever. Meet a duke, a psychic, a bodyguard and a professor…and one "guardian fairy" in absorbing stories ranging from regency and contemporary romance to paranormal and women's fiction.

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

This is a compilation of 5 novellas which in the end, seemed more like short stories. 
Playing for Keeps: I actually DNF'd this story. Most romances are cliche and formulaic. I like knowing there is going to be a HEA at the end. But when the characters and scenes are also cheesy and cliche and not terribly well-written, it is not enjoyable.

The Princess & the Pinot: I actually enjoyed this story the most. It was predictable and a little cheesy but it was also sweet and actually gave me a happily ever after tied up in a pretty bow. 

Duets: I don't even know what to say. This story almost made me throw my Kindle. A typical love triangle with smarmy guy at one point and quiet sensitive guy at the other. I knew what was supposed to happen. I thought it was headed that way....and then it just ended. And had notes at the end that made it clear this was just an introduction to another book. So frustrating.

Never and Forever: This one had the makings of a classic romance: dashing duke with no desire to marry paired with an independent lady who cares nothing for marriage or family brought together by meddling older family members. I liked all of the characters, the dialogue was fine, there was just the right amount of passion without crossing into erotica.....and then, it too....ended abruptly. 

The Psychic Detective: This book had a very interesting plot. Female cop needs to solve a mystery and clear her name. Gritty private detective who communicates with the dead. This story was going somewhere interesting too before it just ended. 

With the exception of the first story, I felt the writing was decent with engaging characters. One pretty unique plot line and the others were variations on a theme but they were shaping up into nice little romances. But three of the four I read were not complete stories and that really frustrates me.

(I'd give it 1 star but the stories did interest me enough to bump it to 2). 

I was provided an eARC by the publisher for review purposes. Here is my honest review.

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Dark Signal (Kate Fox #2) by Shannon Baker, A Review


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Book Description

Dark Signal by Shannon Baker is the second installment in the Kate Fox mystery series, called "A must read" by New York Times bestselling author Alex Kava, starring a female Longmire in the atmospheric Nebraska Sandhills.

Reeling from her recent divorce, Kate Fox has just been sworn in as Grand County, Nebraska Sheriff when tragedy strikes. A railroad accident has left engineer Chad Mills dead, his conductor Bobby Jenkins in shock. Kate soon realizes that the accident was likely murder.

Who would want to kill Chad Mills? Kate finds that he made a few enemies as president of the railroad workers union. Meanwhile his widow is behaving oddly. And why was his neighbor Josh Stevens at the Mills house on the night of the accident?

While her loud and meddling family conspires to help Kate past her divorce, State Patrol Officer Trey closes in on Josh Stevens as the suspect. Kate doesn’t believe it. She may not have the experience, but she’s lived in the Sandhills her whole life, and knows the land and the people. Something doesn’t add up―and Kate must find the real killer before he can strike again.


I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

Dark Signal gripped me from the opening paragraph, dragged me to the Nebraska Sandhills and wouldn't let me go. As a mystery, this book hit all the points for me: intriguing mystery with numerous suspects, a law officer with just the right amount of confidence and vulnerability and a cast of supporting characters that draw in like one of the group and add a sense of real-life to the story.
I finished the book deeply satisfied and yet.....yearning for more Kate Fox and the rural Nebraska community she calls home. This book is so strong in both it's setting descriptions and character developments.

This is actually the second book in the series and while I haven't read the first book, that did not hinder me from connecting to Kate right away. Baker did an excellent job of making sure the reader knew bits of Kate's past and how that drives her now while not providing an overabundance of details or retelling the first book in a few pages. As a reader, I loved that; I was able to read and enjoy this book all the time knowing I'll go back and read the first book.

Another element that I enjoyed was the secondary mystery Baker wove throughout the book involving Kate's niece and her whereabouts and another mystery. It seems like this is a mystery that will unfold slowly, over several books and it's always fun to try to unravel the clues along with the protagonist. Finally, I loved how Baker was able to off-set tense moments with just the right amount of humor or sarcasm.

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it


Want to Know More?

You can visit Shannon Baker's website to learn more about Kate Fox and this series.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Trio of Book Reviews

Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

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Suburbia is a jungle, filled with lots of vicious creatures.


Review

Source: Library 

I picked this book up because I thought the title was intriguing and I liked the cover. The story was okay: I didn't hate it (entirely) and I didn't enjoy it as much as I do my usual 3-star reads. I was really hoping that the book would not end with couples split by divorce; that was a futile endeavor. While I think Brown did a fair job of fleshing out well developed characters, I didn't really find myself connecting with any of them; my favorite was a tertiary male character that worked from home in a technical field and was maligned by the neighborhood despite being one of the most normal residents of all. 


I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Sweet Tea Tuesdays



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Three best friends met every Tuesday for twenty-six years. And then they stopped. 

Review

Source: Kindle Unlimited

I loved the idea of three friends who spent over 25 years sharing a daily cup of tea on the front porch. This book explores the friendship of three women who are very different but are the best of friends. I laughed at the beginning and bawled (not cried, bawled) at the end with bouts of disgust, frustration, anger, hopelessness, and understanding along the journey in between.  Stories about life-long friendships always fascinate me and Farley wrote a story that was funny, raw, honest, heart-breaking, and ultimately, redemptive. Each of the women: Georgia, Midge and Lula, are so beautifully captured that you can find pieces of each of them to identify with. They have a major falling out and yet, as the reader, you can't pick a side....all you can do is root for them to look past the moment to the past that has drawn them together for 26 years. In the end, they discover that true friendship may face trials, but it can never be completely destroyed. 

I did cry at the end of the book - I couldn't help it - I felt as if I was a fourth friend and felt their loss so completely.


I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Help Wanted (An on the Job Romance #1)

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Interoffice dating can only lead to trouble—unless it leads to true love . . .

Review

This was a pretty cute romance that had some more serious plot twists. I admired the heroine for being brave enough to start over after a misunderstanding results in her being fired. The whole setup of her finding a new job and the parameters within that company are completely believable which for me, is a must in a romance book such as this. 
One thing that really surprised me was that Hanson used a stalker and even a physical attack on Kenley; this took the book from just a romance with a guaranteed happy ending to a book that explores a serious issue. It wasn't easy for Kenley to recover from the experience but Hanson wrote it in such an authentic and hopeful way. You are getting more than just a formulaic romance with this book. 

I won this book as a giveaway here on Goodreads - thank you to the giveaway sponsor - yet this is an honest review.


I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Redemption of the Cube Dweller by Joanne Fox Phillips, A Review

Redemption of the Cube Dweller

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Book Description

Tanzie Lewis may be confessing her sins, but has this corporate auditor turned sleuth really learn any lessons from her crimes?

Tanzie successfully brought down her previous company for their dirty dealings, but she feels compelled to fly back to her hometown of San Francisco to confess the sins she committed in the process. However, instead of the liberation Tanzie hoped to gain from her time in the dim light of the confessional, she finds herself drawn into intertwining investigations where her professional skills, once again, threaten to place her in danger, and a budding romance competes for this appealing detective’s attention in another clever adventure in the series.
Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.


I have been waiting for this book since I finished the first one: Revenge of the Cube Dweller. Redemption did not disappoint! Like the first book, Tanzie was a character that you can easily love and root for in spite of - or maybe because of - her flaws. The plot was developed and kept you guessing as well as being fast-paced. The secondary characters were so strong in this book that they really added so much to the story!

I can't wait to see what Tanzie gets up to next!

Note: While this is the second book in the series, and I always recommend reading in order, you could read this book without having read the first. The plot of this book is not a continuation of the first and the author does a good job of filling in some back story for Tanzie.

I gave this book: 


★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it


Want to Know More?
You can read my review of the first book in the series HERE.
Revenge of the Cube Dweller

Rescued by Peter Zheutlin, A Review

Rescued: What Second-Chance Dogs Teach Us about Living with Purpose, Loving with Abandon, and Finding Joy in the Little Things

Rescued: What Second-Chance Dogs Teach Us About Living with Purpose, Loving with Abandon, and Finding Joy in the Little Things

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Book Description

In RESCUEDNYT bestselling author Peter Zheutlin interweaves stories and lessons from families who have welcomed rescue dogs into their homes with his own zany experiences adopting one for the first time in midlife to reveal what we can learn from these animals who were once lost and are now found. Blending keen insights and advice on navigating the complexities of caring for a rescue dog with humorous (and occasionally heart-wrenching) anecdotes, each chapter reveals important life lessons we can learn from second-chance dogs, such as: 
- The truth about living with a rescued pet: it is not one continuous Hallmark moment
- How rescue dogs can heal us just like we heal them
- Surprising new ways they can teach us to rediscover and celebrate our joyous inner child, accept change gracefully, and forgive others and, most importantly, ourselves 
For anyone who loves, lives with, or has ever wanted a dog, this irresistibly charming book will warm your heart and show how the dogs whose lives we've saved can change ours for the better too.

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.

An absolutely delightful and adorable read! Zheutlin was able to bring the dogs to life and showcase their personalities with the written word - a truly remarkable feat. I don't know who wouldn't want to cuddle the sweet, skittish, and lovable Albie after finishing this book. 
Dog rescue is a world of extremes: Zheutlin points to the horrors that many dogs (especially in the South) face and then shifts the focus to the realities of rescuing a dog and giving them a home of love, safety and comfort. The author doesn't shy away from the challenges that an owner could face when rescuing a dog; instead he addresses it in a practical way that inspires rather than discourages rescue. I really enjoyed the way Zheutlin took several "case studies", or rescued dogs and their owners, and used their stories repeatedly throughout the book. Instead of briefly meeting a great number of dogs and owners, we are able to really get to know a handful of great human beings and their dogs. It also gives continuity to the exploration of what one can expect when rescuing a dog.


I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it



Want to Know More?



2. Fostering a Pet: FAQs by Petfinder

3. Finally, get involved. A good friend of mine is actively involved in dog rescue and I know it is a rewarding experience for her.  You can donate money to a rescue or if that is outside your limits, you can volunteer to help a rescue in a variety of ways (post about dogs needing a home, foster a dog, help at a rescue event, transport dogs, etc)  

Zheutlin mentions the vast number of homeless dogs after Hurricane Katrina.  With the recent Harvey and Irma hurricane's, there are many dogs currently needing assistance. There are many dog rescues to choose from. A Google search for dog rescue Hurricane Harvey/Irma should give you multiple charities to choose from.