Book Review: Bittersweet by Sarina Bowen

bittersweet.jpgBLURB:  The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they’d shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago.

At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the sorority girl who’s shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.

Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder’s travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second chance with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay—a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way.

They’re adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey’s top secret enchilada sauce, and then some.

MY THOUGHTS: I loved this book. I admit, I was kind of disappointed there was no hockey hottie (my intro to Bowen was thru her hockey romance series) but by about chapter 3, I was hooked. The primary and secondary characters are so well crafted, the dialogue and editing are spot-on & I even learnt heaps about Vermont, organic farming, restaurant supply chain & (nom nom) cider. If you don’t like the sensual scenes, I would still recommend reading this title. There’s a lot to enjoy.

I’m already deep into Steadfast, book 2. FYI, I brought these titles on my Kindle, & they are widely available in e and print versions.

Author interview: https://www.heroesandheartbreakers.com/blogs/2017/09/sarina-bowen-bittersweet-and-true-north-news

 

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Book Review: Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed

things we set on fireBLURB: A series of tragedies brings Vivvie’s young grandchildren into her custody, and her two estranged daughters back under one roof. Jackson, Vivvie’s husband, was shot and killed thirty years ago, and the ramifications have splintered the family into their own isolated remembrances and recriminations.

Sisters Elin and Kate fought mercilessly in childhood and have avoided each other for years. Elin seems like the last person to watch her sister convalesce after an attempted suicide. But Elin has her own reasons for coming to Kate’s side and will soon discover Kate’s own staggering needs.

This deeply personal, hauntingly melancholy look at the damages families inflict on each other—and the healing that only they can provide—is filled with flinty, flawed, and complex people stumbling toward some kind of peace. Like Elizabeth Strout and Kazuo Ishiguro, Deborah Reed understands a story, and its inhabitants reveal themselves in the subtleties: the space between the thoughts, the sigh behind the smile, and the unreliable lies people tell themselves that ultimately reveal the deepest truths.

 

MY THOUGHTS: This is my first Reed read (ha!) but not likely to be my last. I’ve enjoyed the way the author can weave past & present very, very smoothly and the way that life is portrayed as a cycle.

I actually found part of that cycle woke memories that I try hard to keep buried. Being raised primarily by a (at times) mentally unstable parent is not easy. Not to put down the character of Vivvie, but I saw similarities between her and Kaye, especially when Vivvie was at the end of her coping times. I know why Vivvie took the actions she did; & I strive to be the opposite in my life. Perhaps I’m trying too hard, but that’s not an open conversation for a blog!

I guess everyone carries a burden of some kind.

 

Four stars, easy to grade, harder to read.

 

I read this book as part of my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

REVIEW: The Ludlow Ladies Society – Ann O’Loughlin

ludlow.jpgSYNOPSIS: Connie Carter has lost everybody and everything dear to her. To help nurse her grieving heart and to try and find answers, she moves from her home in America to Ludlow Hall, deep in the Irish countryside. All she knows about Ludlow is that her late husband spent all their money on the house – without ever mentioning it to her. Now Connie needs to know why.

At Ludlow Hall, Connie befriends Eve and Hetty and is introduced to the somewhat curious Ludlow Ladies’ Society. But can Connie ever reveal her hurt? And, more importantly, can she ever understand or forgive? As the Ludlow Ladies stitch patchwork memory quilts to remember those they have loved and lost, the secrets of the past finally begin to surface.

REVIEW: I found this novel both freeing and heart-breaking all at once, kind of like a modern Maeve Binchey. Not wanting to be too dramatic about it, but the first time my daughter went away on access, it felt like I had lost her. That doesn’t put me anywhere near the scope of anyone whose child has died, but it did allow me to empathise with the behaviour and mind-set that Connie portrayed. The way the author unfurls the characters is organic (I know, I’m getting all fancy up in here) and the pace suited the story and themes.

There are obvious things that happen (which I won’t go into) but even those enhance the plot and character growth. Easy five stars & one on the re-read shelf.

As per, I don’t seek to fund this site so the following link is non-affiliate. I was introduced to the title through Bookbub, but you can read a sample chapter on the publisher’s site HERE & find links to various purchasing sites. I’m definitely going back for the author’s two previous titles!

REVIEW: Just In New Zealand series – Rosalind James

JUST THIS ONCE: Escape to New Zealand #1

Everyone needs to be rescued sometimes.

Everyone but Hannah Montgomery, that is. She just needs a vacation. Three weeks in New Zealand to sort out her life, figure out what she wants, seems just right. Oh, and to relax. She should definitely put that on the agenda. She certainly isn’t looking for a fling with a professional rugby player, no matter how attractive he is. Hannah doesn’t do casual. But maybe just this once. . .

As much as he’s shared with Hannah, Drew Callahan has kept one very big secret. And learning the truth, now that she’s back home again, has made Hannah warier than ever. Drew knows that she’s right for him. But how can he convince her to let down her guard enough to explore what they could have together?

New-Zealand-Website-Slide_10_bksI’m a sucker for books about my own country/environment. Add on romance, a hot book boyfriend and I’m sold (Rock Hard, anyone? https://sewscrapmuse.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/review-rock-hard-by-nalini-singh/ The concept of the plot isn’t too far out there (find me a girl who hasn’t dreamed of a bf that’s a sports/rock/movie star, & I’ll show you a liar) and the secondary characters are funny and well crafted.

James, while a Yank, has spent enough time here to perfectly describe our environment and she does it so well. Even our unique lexicon is sweet as… J I have devoured all the books in the series multiple times & would only admit to not liking one, which is very good odds for a series as large as this one has become. Overall I’d rate the series 4 ½ stars, which is very high for me! The best thing? The titles are now available on Kindle Unlimited and James has written plenty of others too. Book One, Just This Once, is available for free on most platforms in any case. Please click on the links below & enjoy:

Review: The Mac Brothers Series (Anthology) – various authors

mac brothersBLURB: A perfect Summer beach read!
The Mac Brothers have everything. Confidence. Tattoos. Attitudes. Everything except love.
But for every bad boy, there’s a girl who ignores the rules.

From four of your favourite bestselling authors:
Aaron MacDonald – Seaside Seduction-Angela Ford
Donnan MacDonald – Seaside Playboy-Jennifer Conner
Layne MacDonald – Seaside Rendezvous-Natalie-Nicole Bates
Blake MacDonald – Seaside Passion – Tammy Tate

REVIEW: To be honest, I expected more from this book. A lot more. Most family anthologies show care and attention to an overall plot line but unfortunately this one didn’t. The over-all detail didn’t change in that from book one to four, the basics were consistent (like role, birth order, reason for leaving then returning) but it was very superficial, the characters were surface only and I found it hard to finish, and things jumped around and the books read at very different pacing. I wouldn’t be going out of my way to look for other titles by these authors. 1 star.

I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from the publisher and am voluntarily reviewing it. As per, I don’t seek to fund this blog, but the book is available NOW on Amazon & other e-book retailer sites.

ARC Review: Forever In Good Hope – Cindy Kirk

good hope.pngBLURB: Delphinium “Fin” Bloom returns to her hometown with one goal: get the mayor—her former flame—to approve a location shoot in Good Hope. But business turns personal when the two become entangled in a fake engagement to comfort his ailing grandmother.

For Jeremy, the romantic façade hits close to his heart. Still reeling from the way things ended between Fin and him all those years ago, he sees the fake engagement as an opportunity to get her out of his system once and for all. But instead of laying the past to rest, Jeremy quickly discovers he can’t envision a life without her.

Now engaged to another man, Fin had long ago given up on the dream of a life with Jeremy. Why is it, then, that her fake engagement feels more genuine than her real one? As the sleepy days of summer come to a close in Good Hope, will Fin and Jeremy give love a second chance? Or will the revelation of a devastating secret put an end to the fairy tale?

I started reading this series as it popped up from my Kindle suggestions as similar to Sherryl Woods’ Chesapeake Shores series. And they are, in that the books are interlinked by family, romance and the wider community. Sometimes Kindle suggestions are wildly out (who the heck writes some of those book tags??!) but this one was spot on. While I haven’t written big reviews, I’ve given Christmas in Good Hope 4 Goodreads stars, and the same with Summer in Good Hope (possibly my favourite book of the series, with the presence of two normal & naughty boys) and this is one series I’ll be reading until the end. Go, Eliza!

I have to say, tho, that this is probably the weakest book of the series. Either that, or I really didn’t like Fin or the plot line. It was probably the plot line, but I persevered. I’m not the biggest fan of the fake engagement plotline, which generally has a big enough hole that you could drive a bus thru. I could see some of the ending early on (apart from the obvious real engagement) but there are other areas that out-weighed the fake. About half-way into the book, the secondary characters really started to shine and I enjoyed the second half way more than the first. Fin’s behaviour at the end of their school life was explained, Jeremy’s got a big twist coming (book six, Cindy?) and the family relationships were further fleshed out. As a series, the characters aren’t out-of-place as we move from book to book and it’s progressing nicely. I’d rate it 3 1/2 stars.

I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from the publisher and am voluntarily reviewing it. As per, I don’t seek to fund this blog, but pre-order links & more about the series are available on the Author site http://www.cindykirk.com/ Forever In Good Hope releases on August 15th (so 16th if you’re in New Zealand, like me).

REVIEW The Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue

Goddesses of Kitchen AveAuthor: Barbara O’Neal

Source: Kindle purchase

Rating: 4 stars

 

BLURB: From an acclaimed voice in fiction, this is a wry, beguiling, heartfelt, and warmly wise novel about second chances, unexpected choices, and the dreams that we all hunger to fulfill.

Trudy Marino never expected her life to turn out perfectly. But at forty-six, she was content with what she did have: her caring husband Rick . . . twenty-plus happy years raising three accomplished kids . . . and a lovely house in the artistic, vibrantly diverse town of Pueblo, New Mexico. But a heartbreaking discovery and a suddenly shattered marriage now has Trudy looking back on the choices she didn’t make—and where she might go from here.

Struggling to pick up the pieces, Trudy finds support from a quirky, eclectic group of friends and neighbors—her goddesses of Kitchen Avenue—all of whom are trying in their own unique ways to navigate life’s little surprises. There’s Jade, a fiery social worker who’s finding unexpected strength to deal with her “player” ex-husband, thanks to a most unorthodox passion; Jade’s grandmother, Roberta, who has just lost her husband of sixty-two years—and through memory and piercing grief wonders what to do with the rest of her life; Shannelle, Trudy’s young neighbor and an aspiring writer, determined to realize her talent despite formidable obstacles . . . including the husband who’s afraid her success will be his loss; and Angel, a young, quietly-knowing photographer who makes Trudy uncover a sensuality she never knew—even as he tries to get over the one love he can never really forget.

As Trudy faces her future, she discovers that figuring out what to let go and what to keep is just as difficult as moving on. As she weighs what she and Rick still share against new possibilities, she’ll surprise everyone— including herself—as she tries to reconcile the best of both.

I was hooked into this one by the cover. I know. Shallow. Bright shiny boots and fluffy cats. But the emotional tug made me keep reading thru the sometimes jarring character switches to a very satisfying end.

I could identify a little with Rick’s search for something “more”, which was echoed in both Jade’s need to express herself and Roberta’s overwhelming need to be with her husband. The way the characters are built is solid, & I only disliked one thread of the storyline (SORTA SPOILER ALERT) when Trudy has sex with Angel, looking to be desired, yet she knows Rick still desires her & did even after he had something on the side. There’s link to O’Neal’s other novels (which will go into my electronic TBR pile) which satisfies my want to revisit older characters and I’ll definitely re-read this one sometime in the next year or so.