Monthly Archives: June 2016

Review: While You Were Mine by Ann Howard Creel

2 1/2 Stars

Gwen Mullen is a nurse in New York and the end of World War II has just been announced.  It’s V-J Day and she should be on top of the world like the rest of the populace.  The war is over and the men are coming back home.  It’s a circus and a joyous occasion, she’s swept up in the crowd.  She’s the iconic figure that graced the cover of Life magazine, she’s the nurse that gets kissed by some random soldier.  But Gwen really isn’t much for celebrating, she’s afraid of losing the little girl who has become her life over the last year.  Those fears are realized as she approaches her home and sees a soldier on her doorstep.

John McKee comes back home to see his wife and the child that he’s never met.  But he’s in for shock because Alice isn’t there waiting for him.  Instead, he meets Gwen.  We learn that Alice had been Gwen’s roommate and shortly after giving birth to Mary, she decided that she just couldn’t handle motherhood and had convinced herself that John was dead, so she left Mary behind without a second thought or a backward glance.  Since then, Gwen has become the only parent that Mary has ever known and now, she’s going to lose this child that she’s come to love as her own.

Gwen decides to help John get to know his daughter and help him learn to be a dad.  They slowly begin to get to know one another as well and begin to grow a bond and feelings for one another.  With the help of her best friend and her neighbor, Gwen and John look to be coming together as a happy family.

It honestly could have just stayed that way.  A really sweet story about a woman who stepped up when no one else could or would and the man who came home from the war to a destroyed life, only to find love again with this strong woman.  But no, it’s apparently not enough and there are obstacles that need to be thrown in the way.  John turns into a jerk and Gwen becomes the ultimate doormat.

The story ultimately has a happy ending, but it’s almost unsatisfying.  I’m really wanted to like this book more, especially since it started out so well.


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Review: Searching for Harmony by Kelly Elliott

4 Stars

Harmony Banks has already been through hell.  She was disowned by her parents because she became pregnant instead of going to college.  She and Trey married and began their lives together to raise their son, TJ, as a family.  Then her world is shattered again after a horrible accident takes both her husband and her son from her.  As time passes, she learns that her marriage wasn’t what she thought it was and begins to fall apart.  The only thing keeping her going is the strong friendship she formed with the firefighter who saved her life.

Preston Ward is a firefighter and first responder.  He thought that he’d become immune to the emotional roller coaster that can come along with his job, especially when unable to save a child.  But he couldn’t get Harmony or her son out of his mind, so he visited her in the hospital.  The bond that started when he saved her life, grew into an amazing friendship, one that saved both of them from what could have been a very deep depression.

As the months pass, Harmony and Preston become closer and begin to recognize that the feelings they have for one another are definitely more than friendship and go much deeper than either one of them expects.  But can Harmony get past her heartbreak and let herself love again?  When you lose everything once, can you open yourself up to someone even if there is the possibility that you could lose it all again?  Can Harmony and Preston let themselves just live in the moment and take everything that life has to offer them?

I really did enjoy this book.  It was a tear-jerker in several areas.  I wasn’t always convinced of the authenticity of the characters, but they were definitely a warm and loving bunch that I wanted to get to know more.  The romance wasn’t overdone and it was one of the more believable romance stories I’ve come across in quite awhile.  There were times I wanted to smack both Harmony and Preston upside the head, but who doesn’t want to do that from time to time with people in our own lives?


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Review: When I’m Gone by Emily Bleeker

3 Stars

This book opens on a pretty awful scene.  Luke Richardson is returning home after burying his beloved wife, Natalie.  Not only is he dealing with his own grief, but also the grief of their three young children and learning how to parent their children alone.  Something that he’s really not prepared for is the sight of a blue envelope in Natalie’s handwriting waiting for him on the floor of their home.  Inside the envelop is a letter from Natalie, written on her first day of cancer treatment.  This letter turns out to be the first of many.  Luke is convinced that they are genuine, but who is sending them?

As the letters keep coming, Luke begins to learn that his wife had secrets, ones that she never told him, not even when she knew that her cancer wasn’t going to go into remission.  As he continues to receive these letters, he becomes obsessed with them and their content.  He begins to question everything that he ever believed to be true about his wife and their marriage.

The premise was really good.  Putting myself in Luke’s shoes, I would probably become just as obsessed with these letters from my loved one that just suddenly started showing up right after the funeral.  I could totally empathize with Luke in the beginning and even when he started finding out her secrets, I could go along with his reactions.  But there were too many times where I just wanted to throttle him for being an idiot.

There were a lot of secondary characters that had a lot of page-time dedicated to them, but you really didn’t get a very good sense of who they were and how they fit into Luke and Natalie’s life.  The relationships seemed a little stilted and wooden.  Natalie’s mother absolutely hated Luke, but you really don’t get a sense of why.  You would think that no matter how much you might dislike your son-in-law, that you would at least bury the hatchet long enough to have the funeral and help her grandchildren mourn.

It was kind of neat to get to know a character solely through her letters.  I think that was probably the best aspect of the book for me.  Learning about Natalie through her letters.  She began them on the very day that she first started her treatments and as her disease got progressively worse, she began to open up about everything.  How she wanted Luke to go on after she passed.  What her deepest secret was and how it could effect him and their family.

The twist wasn’t nearly as satisfying as I thought it would be.  Probably because I figured it out pretty quickly.  I think without some of the foreshadowing the twist could have been much more of a surprise.  I also wish it didn’t end as abruptly as it did.  It ended on a cautiously optimistic note, but there were still so many questions left unanswered.

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Review: 30 Pieces of Silver by Carolyn McCray

2 Stars

I will admit that I was sucked in by the comparisons to Dan Brown.  While I’m not a huge fan of his work, I am interested in the subject matter.  For over two thousand years, scientists and researchers have been trying to prove or disprove the existence of Jesus Christ and the mystery of the crucifixion and resurrection.  So when I read the description for this book, I knew I had to pick it up.  Especially when the description comes with a huge warning label calling the book “an extremely controversial religious/historical thriller.”  Come on, who can resist bait like that?  Obviously not me.

Rebecca Monroe is working on a theory that there is a “genius” gene caused by good radiation that can explain away God and other theories of creation.  She’s pulled away from her research by a Special Ops team that has been sent to bring her in after a bombing in Paris brings her old professor out of hiding (back from the dead?) for the discovery of a lifetime and one that could rock the foundations of Christianity.

From there, we’re off on a wild chase across continents while Rebecca and the team are ambushed, shot at, bombed, electrocuted, chased and put through one unbelievable scenario after another as they go from one clue to the next.  The clues are left on ancient bones inscribed in ancient Greek.  Bones that are believed to have belonged to some of Christianity’s most sacred people.  John the Baptist.  James, brother of Jesus.  Mary Magdalene.  All seem to be pointing to the final resting place of Christ.  Not only that, but the bones are telling a different story about the Crucifixion than the one that the Bible has been telling the faithful for over two thousand years.  As they are trying to uncover the secrets the bones are trying to tell them, they are being hunted down by The Knot.  The Knot is trying to keep these secrets safe because if the truth ever got out, it has the power to destroy everything.

I really, really wanted to like this book.  But I just couldn’t.  Too much of it was so far-fetched that it was almost laugh out loud ludicrous.  Most of the characters were just completely unlikable and there was just very little authenticity in 90% of the characters and their interactions.  I can totally two opposing forces fighting for power and having lots of intense action scenes, but the fights should be believable and make some logical sense.  Can you see a person jumping from a boat travelling at 100 miles per hour onto a bridge and suffering absolutely NO injuries?  Especially a professor with absolutely NO training?

And the contrived romance angle?  Give me a break.

The stars were solely for the twist near the end.  If you’re a quick study, you’ll actually figure it out well before Rebecca does and for a Christian, it’s definitely what most would call sacrilegious.  The best passages of the book were the looks back into history and how the author imagined the interaction between Jesus and his followers.  The rest of the time you’re jumping from one absolutely unbelievable situation to the next.  Since this is a work of fiction, and not a very good one, it shouldn’t rock your faith too much.  I think this would have less impact than even the Dan Brown books.



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Review: Rescue Me, Maybe by Jackie Bouchard

3 Stars

Jane loses her husband and her beloved beagle within weeks of each other.  Jane is more devastated by the loss of her dog, Barnum, than she was by the loss of her husband.  She knew long before he got sick, that things weren’t working out.  But she stayed, because it was the right thing to do.  But now that he’s gone, she’s ready to move back to San Diego and back to her old friends and her old life again.

Things don’t go exactly as planned.  Jane can’t find a job in her niche field and the thought of moving to San Diego on her meager savings has her terrified.  Her mother comes up with the perfect plan.  Her aunt and uncle need help running their B&B for a few months while her aunt recovers from surgery.  Jane decides to pack up and make the move to Arizona to be their chef working for her room and board while she searches for a job.  It’s not ideal, especially since Jane is not good with people.  An introvert, she’s much happier hiding from the world.

As Jane makes her way to Arizona, she comes across a scared stray dog at a rest stop.  Jane makes the decision to bring the dog with her and turn her over to the local animal shelter and plans to forget about her.  After the loss of Barnum, she has no intention on letting this mutt steal her heart.  She’s also determined to have as little interaction with the B&B’s demanding guests and the annoyingly handsome handyman that lives nearby.  Soon, both the dog and the handyman are working their charms on Jane and she just needs to decide whether she can open her heart again.

I really did enjoy this book, but Jane was incredibly annoying and thick-headed.  There were a few laugh out loud passages, especially when talking about her husband’s ashes and what she does to try and fulfill his dying wishes.  But there were times where I just wanted to smack her upside the head or take her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her!

I was not quite as satisfied with the ending.  I wish it could have gone on a little longer to see more into the future, so much potential either for a longer novel or a sequel in my opinion.


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Review: Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova

4 Stars

Lisa Genova has done it to me again. I recently read Still Alice and then went back in search of more of her books when I came across Inside the O’Briens and I am happy that I went in search.  Once again, she steps into the world of neurological disorders and how they have an effect not only on the patient, but on their family and the world around them.

Joe O’Brien is a forty-three year old cop from Charlestown, Massachusetts.  Irish Catholic family man, married with four grown children all living under the same roof in their multi-generational home.  The idyllic life that Joe has is suddenly threatened when he begins to experience temper outbursts, confused and disorganized thinking and weird, involuntary movements, movements that he’s not aware of.  He tries to attribute them to the stress of his job or a recent injury he sustained when falling down the stairs.  But as they worsen, he agrees to see a doctor and then a neurologist.  He is handed a diagnosis that not only changes his life, but it will forever change the lives of his entire family.  He has Huntington’s disease.

The disease is a death sentence.  There is no cure.  There is no treatment.  It’s a disease that eats away at his brain and his body until there is nothing left.  He learns that his mother wasn’t sent to the asylum because she was an alcoholic, she had Huntington’s and was just never diagnosed.  He learns that this disease is inherited and through the wonder that is DNA, each of his children have a 50/50 shot of inheriting the disease from their father.

The story goes between Joe and his struggles with his disease and his daughter, Katie and her struggle to come to terms with her father’s illness and also with the question that hangs over her and her siblings.  Do they take a genetic test to determine if they are going to develop this horrible disease later in their life?  Do you take your chances and just live with the cards that you are dealt and never find out?  Or do you take the test and learn how your days are going to end?

The story is a story of hope as much as it is a story about the struggle of dealing with a disease like Huntington’s.  The story is powerful and riveting.  You can easily put yourself into the story and wonder what you and your family would do when faced with a devastating diagnosis.  This story will bring forth a lot of emotions and I will admit that I cried several times!

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Review: Rum Luck by Ryan Aldred

3 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the chance to read this book in advance.

Ben Cooper wakes up in a Costa Rica jail.  He was supposed to be on his honeymoon, not waking up in a cell.  His honeymoon turned into a bachelor’s getaway after his fiancée breaks his heart.  So he takes the tickets and hotel reservations and uses them to drink away the pain with his friend Miguel in the surf town of Tamarindo.  He wakes to see his lawyer friend, Victoria standing in front of him.  Just how drunk did he get last night?  Why did she have to fly all the way in from Toronto just to bail him out of a drunk and disorderly charge?

Ben soon learns that he is the lead suspect in the murder of the owner of a local bar.  A bar that he purchased just hours before the previous owner wound up dead.  Somewhere in his rum-soaked brain, he thought that it would be a great idea to buy a bar and then rent it out to other people who had always dreamed of owning a bar on a beautiful beach.

Between trying to beat the murder wrap and trying to keep the bar out of foreclosure (in which he would lose everything he put into it) they are also swept up in the mystery surrounding the death of the previous owner as well as trying to figure out who is trying to kill Ben and his friends.  Death threats arrive, rental cars are vandalized and the bar is broken into and ransacked.  And this is just the beginning!  Ben and his friends need to figure out who is behind all of this before they end up losing the bar and their lives.

This book was really a fun romp through paradise.  The main plot was great, guy wakes up in jail after a night of binge drinking to find out that he bought a bar and oh yeah, he’s under suspicion of murder.  I wished the characters were a little stronger and less stereotypical.  There were also a lot of unnecessary threads involving the supporting characters that really didn’t lend to the story and took away from it for me.  I think if the focus had stayed more on Ben and the overall mystery of who really killed the owner, the book would have been stronger for it.  But it was definitely a quick and enjoyable read.

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Review: The Mistresses of Cliveden by Natalie Livingstone

4 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for allowing me the opportunity to read this book prior to publication.

I’m a sucker for anything historical, especially in European history.  I also love reading historical accounts of woman in an age where their voices were rarely heard outside the home and where their correspondence and other writings were routinely lost, burned or otherwise destroyed because they were not deemed important enough to keep.  This book takes us from the birth of Cliveden to it’s decline, a romp through three centuries of scandal and intrigue.

The estate was originally built by the Duke of Buckingham for his mistress, Anna-Maria, Countess of Shrewsbury.  The very creation of Cliveden was shrouded in scandal and political intrigue.  It saw the rise and fall of its first mistress as Buckingham was forced to cut Anna-Maria out of his life.  Her reign at Cliveden was brief and she was forced to flee to France after both she and the Duke fell out of favor at court due to their behavior.  Her story was very well written and researched and you could feel a sympathy for her and her station.  Many others have made women like Anna-Maria out to be evil and sex-crazed.  But the author paints a much different picture.  What would you have done in her shoes during a time where women did not enjoy the same freedom we do today.

The house burned down and was rebuilt several times during its history.  It passed through several families, including (for a time) the Prince of Whales.  It was a seat of political importance and intrigue.  The early mistresses were often close to the monarchy and in one case, became very close friends with Queen Victoria.  You couldn’t be that close to the Queen without becoming involved in the politics of the court.  These women definitely had a voice and while we didn’t often hear them out loud, their effects were clearly present.

Cliveden leaves English hands and becomes the home of Nancy Astor and her husband.  She is the very antithesis of the first mistress of Cliveden.  Where Anna-Maria was thought of as a nymphomaniac, Nancy Astor was the very definition of prudish.  Instead, she brought her eccentric and energetic nature to Cliveden and became the first woman MP as she paved the way for women in politics.

This is an awesome book for any lover of history, especially those who are interested in the historic estates and the women who ran them.

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Review The Memory of Lemon by Judith Fertig

4 Stars

Claire (who goes by Neely) has moved back home and has opened her dream bakery.  She is no ordinary baker, her flavor combinations are nothing short of magical and she seems to have the uncanny ability to know exactly what flavor will touch her customer’s souls.  She can “taste” the flavor of her customer to know what the right combination is for their baked delight.

Neely has taken on a large high-end wedding short notice and is having nothing but problems.  She’s dealing with a free-spirited bride and her very overbearing mother.  She can’t get a read on either one of them and is having a terrible time trying to help them choose the perfect wedding cake.  To add to this, she’s going through a messy divorce, re-kindling an old romance and her absentee father has started mailing her again after nearly two decades.

The story was well written and her interactions between the bride and her mother and all of the supporting cast was believable and genuine.  Neely was a very solid character and you could easily feel a connection to her, as well as the other supporting characters in her life from Ben, her old flame to Maggie, her employee at the bakery.  They are, for the most part, well-thought and well put together characters, ones you could see yourself running into if you visited her hometown.

I wasn’t as much of a fan of the back and forth that the story took between Neely and back through her ancestry, showing where her gift of “taste” comes from.  For me, it did take away from the story a little too much to be abruptly thrown back in time to a different person and place, seemingly at random and sometimes it didn’t seem to have a real connection with what was going on in Neely’s world.

I also saw a few loose ends that never did get tied off and left me feeling a little unsatisfied.  If the author is going to be doing a follow up book to this one, I guess it would make sense.  If not, there are a few threads that could be snipped without doing any damage to the story.  But I still liked the story and the characters and I am definitely going to pick up other works by Judith Fertig to see if there are more adventures with Neely and her wonderful gift.

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Filed under Romance, Women's Fiction