Category Archives: Rated B

Review: Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

Title: Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 362 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:  

A warm, wry, sharply observed debut novel about what happens when a family is forced to spend a week together in quarantine over the holidays…

It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.

For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.

As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.

In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…

Review:

In Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak, a seven day quarantine means the dysfunctional Birch family are sequestered together during Christmas. With each of them keeping secrets, will this tense reunion prove to be a time of healing once the revelation begin to unfold?

Oldest daughter Olivia is a doctor who spends most of her time volunteering with humanitarian agencies during health epidemics in third world countries. With her latest rotation over, she is forced into quarantine to monitor for symptoms of the deadly Haag virus. She and fellow doctor, Sean Coughlan, ignored the strict no contact rule and for the first time in her life, she has fallen in love. Olivia has zero patience for her self-centered and frivolous younger sister, Phoebe, and her relationship with her parents,  Andrew and Emma, is also quite strained.  Olivia is already struggling with her reintegration into regular life when her world is rocked by possibly devastating news.

Twenty-nine and still living at home, Phoebe is happy about her recent engagement despite her disappointment with some aspects of her fiancé George’s proposal.  Now completely wrapped up in planning her upcoming nuptials, she has no interest in anything negative intruding on her excitement.  Needless to say, Phoebe is not exactly the most sympathetic family member due to her self-absorption and unhappiness when she is not the center of everyone’s attention.

Matriarch Emma is determined to make the most of Olivia’s first Christmas with the family in years so she conceals some unexpected news about herself.  Relentlessly upbeat and positive, she refuses to let anything mar their time together and it is almost comical how she acknowledges bad news yet immediately pretends it has no effect on her or her family. When she learns some very troubling information about her husband, Emma becomes quite reflective about their marriage but will she confront Andrew about this discovery?

A former war correspondent who gave up his career for his family, Andrew is a restaurant critic whose distant past unexpectedly collides with his present. As he looks back on the early years of his courtship and marriage to Emma, he barely recognizes who they used to be. He delights in Phoebe’s sparkling personality and they are quite close but his relationship with Olivia has always been distant.  Turning his back on a stunning disclosure, how will Andrew react when is forced to deal with this life-altering bit of news head on?

Despite a rather slow beginning, Seven Days of Us is ultimately an engrossing family drama that is sure to resonate with readers who can relate to imperfect family relationships. The characters are quite eclectic and diverse with relatable flaws and strengths. The storyline is refreshingly unique and Francesca Hornak bring the novel to twist-filled emotional conclusion.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Fiction, Francesca Hornak, Rated B, Review, Seven Days of Us

Review: Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman

Title: Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

The author of the critically acclaimed The Book of Jonah explores questions of love and choice, disappointment and hope in the lives of two strangers who meet by chance in this mesmerizing tale that unfolds over one Thanksgiving Day.

Adam is a former musician and recovering alcoholic who is home for Thanksgiving for the first time in many years. Surrounded by his parents and siblings, nieces and nephews—all who have seen him at his worst—he can’t shake the feeling that no matter how hard he tries, he’ll always be the one who can’t get it right.

Marissa is a flight attendant whose marriage is strained by simmering tensions over race, class, and ambition. Heading to her in-laws for their picture-perfect holiday family dinner, her anxiety is intensified by the knowledge she is pregnant from an impulsive one-night-stand.

In an airport restaurant on Thanksgiving morning, Adam and Marissa meet. Over the course of this day fraught with emotion and expectation, these two strangers will form an unlikely bond as they reckon with their family ties, their pasts, and the choices that will determine their way forward.

Joshua Max Feldman focuses his knowing eye on one of the last bastions of classical American idealism, the Thanksgiving family gathering, as he explores our struggles to know—and to be—our best selves. Hilarious and heartrending, Start Without Me is a thoughtful and entertaining page-turner that will leave its indelible mark on your heart.

Review:

Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman is an interesting character study that will resonate with readers who have complicated family relationships.

Recovering alcoholic Adam Warshaw is spending the first Thanksgiving with his family in years and he has barely arrived before he runs away. Planning to fly back to San Francisco, he is passing time at a hotel restaurant where he meets flight attendant Marissa who is also not looking forward to spending the day with her husband, Robbie and his family.  After changing his mind about leaving town, he and Marissa are uneasy traveling partners when she agrees to drop Adam off at his parents’ on her way to her in-laws. Unlikely allies, they are often unable to find answers for their own problems  yet  Marissa and Adam offer one another some rather insightful advice about the troubles they are grappling with. As their time together is coming to an end, both Marissa and Adam are facing monumental decisions about their respective futures.

With each of them dealing with very different issues, Adam and Marissa are incredibly world weary.  Adam’s latest stint in rehab seems to have finally made a difference and although he is not exactly loving his life, he is committed to his sobriety. And yet, for all the progress he has made, Adam is rather daunted at the prospect of dealing with his family without the numbing effects of alcohol. Already overwhelmed, Adam runs when he makes the tiniest mistake.

Marissa is conflicted over the seemingly insurmountable reality of her unplanned pregnancy from her out of character one night stand. Her once happy marriage has been strained for quite some time and she is slowly realizing that she and Robbie see their future quite differently. She is also dreading spending the day with her in-laws who have always made her feel like an unwanted outsider. The events that transpire over Thanksgiving coupled with Robbie’s reaction to her news leave her very uncertain about what choice she will make about her marriage and her pregnancy.

Start Without Me is an engaging novel with well-developed characters who are dealing with realistic problems.  Despite his new self-awareness, Adam remains mired in negative thinking and a defeatist outlook. Marissa is clinging to her marriage in spite of the fact that she and Robbie are no longer on the same page.  Joshua Max Feldman brings this contemplative and thought-provoking journey of self-discovery to a satisfying conclusion.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Joshua Max Feldman, Rated B, Review, Start Without Me, William Morrow

Review: Lilac Lane by Sherryl Woods

Title: Lilac Lane by Sherryl Woods
Chesapeake Shores Series Book 14
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

No one writes about friends, family and home better than Sherryl Woods. Told with warmth and humor, Lilac Lane is a brand-new story in her beloved Chesapeake Shores series, one readers all over the world have waited two years to read!

At the heart of Lilac Lane is Keira Malone, who raised her three children alone after her first marriage broke apart, and who, after years of guarding her heart, finally finds love again. But that love is short-lived when her fiancé suffers a fatal heart attack. Grieving and unsure of what’s next, Keira agrees to move from Dublin to Chesapeake Shores, Maryland, to spend time with her daughter, Moira, and her new granddaughter, Kate, as well as to help her son-in-law, Luke, with his Irish pub, O’Briens.

Not wanting to live underfoot, she rents a charming cottage on Lilac Lane, replete with views of the ocean and her neighbor’s thriving garden—not to mention views of the neighbor himself. The neighbor is none other than Bryan Laramie, the brusque and moody chef at the pub, with whom Keira is constantly butting heads. But things get real when Bryan’s long-lost daughter, whom he hasn’t seen since she was a baby, shows up out of the blue. As Bryan and Keira each delve into their pasts, reopening wounds, the rest of the town is gearing up for the Fall Festival Irish Stew cook-off, and making no bones about whose side they’re on. It’s Kitchen Wars meets This is Your Life—a recipe for disaster…or a new take on love?

You won’t want to miss this epic return to Chesapeake Shores, a place we’re betting you’ll want to stay forever.

Review:

Featuring a heartwarming romance, close family ties and delightful friendships, Lilac Lane is an endearing addition to Sherryl Woods’ Chesapeake Shores series.

Following the sudden death of her mother Keira Malone’s fiancé, Moira O’Brien is worried about her mom so she comes up with a foolproof plan to lure her to the US from Ireland. She convinces her mom that her husband Luke could use her help in his pub and she could use a helping hand with their baby.  Keira readily agrees to visit temporarily and while waiting for her visa issues to be fully worked out, she is working at the pub as a consultant. Keira has not had an easy life and she is not one to mince words or hold back from voicing her opinions. Needless to say, she immediately gets on the pub’s chef Bryan Laramie’s nerves, who is not always amenable to her suggestions.

Bryan is haunted by the fact that he has not seen his daughter since his wife walked out on him years ago and he has never stopped looking for her. Although he is always pleasant, he is a bit of a loner who is devoted to his job. He wants to get along with Luke’s mother-in-law, but Keira always manages to irritate him with her unsolicited advice. However, when she moves in next door to him, the unlikely pair end up spending a lot of time in each other’s company.  After his daughter unexpectedly re-enters his life, Keira is instrumental in smoothing over the rough spots in their reunion.

The relationship between Bryan and Keira is originally a little antagonistic as they bicker back and forth at the pub. Their peaceful moments are often short-lived due to their respective baggage.  Their surprising friendship paves the way for their unlikely yet incredibly sweet romance but Keira’s fears come between them on more than one occasion.  She is quick to put obstacles in their path since she is afraid of risking her heart again. Until Bryan meets Keira, his unsettled past with his wife makes him hesitant to become seriously involved but his growing feelings for the feisty Irishwoman are the catalyst he needs to take steps to resolve these issues.

Lilac Lane is an engaging novel with a fantastic cast of characters and a slow moving but heartfelt romance.  Readers who enjoy close-knit families, small town settings and clean romances are sure to love this newest installment in Sherryl Woods’ homespun Chesapeake Shores series.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Chesapeake Shores Series, Contemporary, Harlequin, Lilac Lane, Mira, Rated B, Review, Romance, Sherryl Woods

Review: Pupcakes by Annie England Noblin

Title: Pupcakes by Annie England Noblin
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Sit! Stay! Speak! author Annie England Noblin’s novel takes one woman starting over, adds an aging pug named Teddy Roosevelt, and proves the power of a well-baked dog treat.

All she wants is a settled-down life.

What she gets is a dog—and a whole new normal . . .

There he stood in the doorway: overweight, depressed and nearly homeless—a pug named Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy was Brydie Benson’s latest problem, arriving on top of her messy divorce and sudden move. Brydie needed a place to start over, so this rent-free home seemed a great idea. She just never counted on Teddy, or his owner, the Germantown Retirement Village’s toughest customer, Pauline Neumann.

And because rent-free doesn’t mean bills-free, Brydie gets a night-shift job at a big-box grocery. Whoever guessed there were so many people who wanted baked goods after midnight?

Then, she gets an idea—why not combine her baking skills with her new-found dog knowledge? And so her store Pupcakes is born. Along with a new start comes a possible new love, in the form of Nathan Reid, a local doctor with a sassy Irish Wolfhound named Sasha. And as fall turns to winter, and then to Christmas, Brydie begins to realize that life is a little bit like learning a new recipe for puff pastry—it takes a few tries to get it just right!

Review:

Pupcakes by Annie England Noblin is a charming novel about new beginnings and coming to terms with a painful past.

Brydie Benson was blindsided by her divorce and she is starting over in Memphis, TN where her best friend Elliot Jones lives. Brydie is struggling to let go of the future she expected to have with her ex and with a little nudging from Elliott, she finally manages to become more engaged in life. Her progress in moving on does not really begin until she moves into a house where she receives free rent in exchange for taking care of home owner Pauline Neumann’s laconic but lovable pug, Teddy Roosevelt.  When she and Teddy visit the local dog park, Brydie is surprised by her interest in another dog lover, Nathan Reid. After their rather memorable first meeting, she hopes to avoid him for the foreseeable future but as luck would have, she runs into him when she goes to the nursing home where she and Teddy are visiting Pauline. When their paths continue to cross, Brydie reluctantly agrees to go on a date with him, but will her unresolved issues from her divorce derail their chance at happiness?

Brydie is a bit of a contradiction due to the vast difference in her behavior personally and professionally.  In her personal life, she is an avoider who ignores problems and she runs away from confrontation instead of dealing with it head on. She and her mother have a somewhat troubled relationship which has worsened in the years since her father passed away.

In sharp contrast to her personal life,  Brydie is quite confident when it comes to her chosen career as a baker.  Before she and her ex divorced and sold their bakery, she had a strong work ethic and put in long hours to ensure their business thrived. Since their divorce, she has avoided anything  do with baking. However, her new job renews her zeal for baking but instead of creating delicious desserts, Brydie now focuses on making dog treats.

Brydie’s relationship with Nathan moves in fits and starts as she overreacts and runs away at the slightest provocation. She is aware that she is deliberately sabotaging their slow moving romance but she finds it difficult to risk her heart again. When everything is  going well between them, she and Nathan are a well-matched couple who have a surprising amount of interests in common despite their very different careers. When trouble arises, Brydie continues her frustrating pattern of running away then avoiding any contact with Nathan. While her fears are understandable, Brydie’s continual overreaction to minor difficulties becomes extremely irritating.

Brydie’s friendship with Pauline is absolutely heartwarming and the older woman remains quite feisty despite her failing health. With a wealth of experience and more than a few regrets about some areas of her life, Pauline offers  sage advice to her young friend, but will Brydie be open to the her well-meaning suggestions?

Featuring an adorable pup, a thought-provoking storyline and a colorful cast of eclectic characters, Pupcakes is an uplifting journey of healing.  Despite the sometimes uneven pacing of the storyline and Brydie’s tendency to self-sabotage when she feels threatened, this latest novel by Annie England Noblin is an enjoyable tale that fans of the genre are sure to love!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Annie England Noblin, Contemporary, Pupcakes, Rated B, Review, William Morrow Paperbacks, Women's Fiction

Review: Where the Sun Shines Out by Kevin Catalano

Title:Where the Sun Shines Out by Kevin Catalano
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Genre: Fiction
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

A raw, unflinching literary debut for fans of Dennis Lehane and Tom Franklin examining the aftershocks of survival, and the price of salvation. 

In the blue-collar town of Chittenango, New York, two young boys are abducted from a local festival and taken to a cabin in the woods. One is kept; one is killed. When they are next seen, ten-year-old Dean has escaped by swimming across Oneida Lake holding his brother’s dead body.

As the years pass, the people of Chittenango struggle to cope with the collateral damage of this unspeakable act of violence, reverberations that disrupt the community and echo far beyond. With nothing holding it together, Dean’s family disintegrates under the twin weights of guilt and grief, and the unspoken acknowledgment that the wrong child survived. At the center of it all, Dean himself must find a place in a future that never should have been his.

In a sweeping narrative spanning decades and told from alternating points of view, Where the Sun Shines Out tells the story of a town and the inevitable trauma we inflict upon each other when we’re trying our best. Exploring the bonds, and breakdowns, of families, Kevin Catalano’s fearless debut reminds us that although the path to redemption is pockmarked, twisted, and often hidden from view, somehow the sun makes it through.

Review:

Where the Sun Shines Out by Kevin Catalano is a dark and gritty debut that is quite enthralling despite the utter heartbreak that follows the kidnapping of two young boys.

In 1992, ten year old Dean Fleming and his younger brother Jason are kidnapped while they are attending the town’s annual Oz Festival. Dean manages to survive the ordeal and in the years that follow, he remains wracked with guilt and caught in an increasingly downward spiral. Over the next 22 years, his life touches other residents of their small town and no one escapes unscathed.

Each of the chapters feature different characters and how their lives are affected in the aftermath of the tragedy. The first chapter is dedicated to the kidnapping and the traumatic outcome that virtually destroys the Fleming family. Dean is unable to tell authorities what they need to know to capture one of the kidnappers and in the years that follow, he bullies his only friend Brett Patrick.

The next chapters continually move forward in time and jump from character to character.and eventually circle back to Dean. Attempting to quash his pain, anger and confusion, he goes down a very dark path that leaves destruction and despair in his wake. Just as it appears that he has finally conquered his haunting past, Dean finally must face his demons but will this final showdown destroy him?

Where the Sun Shines Out is an emotionally compelling read that is impossible to put down. The characters are deeply flawed yet sympathetic. The storyline is full of angst with Dean and the residents whose lives intertwine with his with making choices that end with devastating consequences. Kevin Catalano brings this bleak novel of despair and dysfunction to a bit of a cliffhanger conclusion that will leave readers wondering what the future holds for Dean Fleming.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Fiction, Kevin Catalano, Rated B, Review, Skyhorse Publishing, Where the Sun Shines Out

Review: Remember Me Always by Renee Collins

Title: Remember Me Always by Renee Collins
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 322 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Shelby is nervous to start her senior year after spending the whole summer away from home. After all, it’s hard to be carefree when you’re trying to protect a secret.

Shelby was in a devastating car accident, and everyone in town thinks that she was undergoing more physical therapy in Denver. Instead, Shelby’s mother enrolled her in a clinical program to stop the panic attacks that started after the crash. The treatment erased Shelby’s memory of the accident, but she can’t help feeling as if a piece of herself is missing, that the treatment took more than the doctors claimed.

So when Shelby starts hallucinating a boy with dark and mysterious eyes, she knows it must be a side-effect of the clinical program. Except you can’t kiss hallucinations. And this boy insists that they know each other and are in love…

Review:

Remember Me Always by Renee Collins is an intriguing young adult novel with an interesting premise and a multi-layered storyline.

Over the summer, Shelby Decatur undergoes a somewhat extreme treatment to erase her memories of a car accident that are causing her severe anxiety, panic attacks and PTSD. Now home, her excitement at beginning her senior year of high school is tempered by an underlying, low-level sense that something is not quite right. Having recently experienced a tantalizing fragment of memory featuring a young man, Shelby does not know what to think when she discovers the teenager from her recollection is real. She is even more stunned to learn that she and the young man, Auden Keplar, were in a two year relationship.  Auden wants to try to resume their romance and although Shelby is drawn to him, his intensity is a little unnerving. Although she cannot remember their romance, Shelby is willing to give him a chance but when she discovers he has been less than truthful with her, will she continue to see him?

Shelby often feels out of step with the rest of her small hometown. She has big dreams of becoming an actress, but her controlling mother is rather forceful with her attempts to dissuade her from leaving town. Shelby is initially very reluctant to trust Auden and in his zeal to convince her to give him a chance, his behavior is uncomfortably close to stalking and obsessive. At Auden’s urging, she keeps their renewed friendship a secret from her mom and her best friend, Grace. Shelby is enthusiastically embracing her resumed relationship with Auden when she learns he has been keeping some very serious secrets from her.

Meanwhile, Shelby is beginning to suffer from nightmares that fill her will an incredible sense of unease. Her anxiety levels are increasing and she is uncertain whom she can trust after her relationship with Auden is discovered by both her mother and Grace. Shelby comes to the realization that she needs to recover the memories that have been erased but will it be possible for her to remember what happened the night of the accident?

Remember Me Always is an appealing young adult novel with an innovative storyline and well-developed characters. Shelby’s quest to recover her traumatic memories offers her the opportunity to stop running from problems and instead face them head on. Grace’s predicament with an ex-boyfriend is an important demonstration of when a relationship crosses the line into abuse.   While some aspects of the plot are easy to predict, Renee Collins brings the novel to a surprising conclusion.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Leave a Comment

Filed under Contemporary, Rated B, Remember Me Always, Renee Collins, Review, Sourcebooks Fire, Young Adult