REVIEW: THE ONE & ONLY, BY EMILY GIFFIN

 

Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.

But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets.

My Thoughts: In the beginning of The One and Only, I had mixed feelings about the book. I am not a football addict, and I feared that the game, its players, and its fans would take over the story. But I started caring about Shea right away, and I found that I could relate to her feelings about her hometown and about family, even though my own experiences were quite different.

Watching how her unique friendship with Coach Clive Carr, her best friend’s father, started changing after his wife’s death caught me up in their story, and I couldn’t help rooting for them. I knew that they were about to encounter a lot of push back from people, especially Shea’s friend Lucy.

The slow build of passion between Coach and Shea allowed time for her to experience some other relationships that did not work out, and which increased the pull between them. When it looked like their love was doomed, I hoped for some kind of miracle. The quick turnaround at the end was a bit much, though, and left me feeling cheated out of more special moments. But overall, I had to keep turning the pages, wondering how the characters’ lives would come together. 4 stars.

***
Advertisements

REVIEW: VIRGIN RIVER, BY ROBYN CARR

81+UlJSeMeL._SL1500_

 

 

Fleeing the pain and loss of her life in LA, Melinda (Mel) Monroe is ready for a dramatic change in her life and where she lives it…which is why she responded to the ad for a nurse practitioner in the small country village upstate. She was promised a cabin rent free for a year, and the opportunity to use her midwifery skills.

She arrives on a stormy night, and her BMW doesn’t quite make it up the mountain…a grumpy passer-by hauls her out of the mud and leads her to the cabin. Stunned by what she finds there, Mel is just about to turn around and leave. Except there is the storm, her hunger, and the appearance of the “landlady” Hope McCrea, promising the derelict cabin will be cleaned up…and that they can find food in the diner.

The diner turns out to be a tavern run by a couple of intimidating characters: “Preacher” and Jack. And there at the bar sits the grumpy passer-by, who turns out to be the doctor she is there to assist. But the food offered is divine, and the ambience isn’t bad.

Still…she wants to leave, but when she goes to Doc Mullins’s place later, she discovers an abandoned baby there. She can’t leave just yet.

Virgin River reeled me in with the descriptions of the characters, the settings, the food…and encircled me with all the warmth a place like that can offer. Jack Sheridan, the bar owner, is brought vividly to life in all his hunky sexiness, and it doesn’t take long to imagine what could happen between him and Mel…if she lets it.

After all, she lost her husband Mark in a dreadful murder…and is still grieving.

Can Mel find what she needs in this off-the-beaten-path place? Will the friendly charms and homey goodness of the people help her heal? And will the darkness that hides in the woods ruin things, or will Jack and his cohorts defeat it?

I was eager to find out, so I kept turning pages until the very end, and still wanted more. I enjoyed how the author showed us the challenges of practicing medicine in such a community, while also revealing the unique charms of the people, which made the challenges worth the effort. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series. 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: SECRET SISTERS, BY JAYNE ANN KRENTZ

25194146

 

 

Eighteen years ago, on Cooper Island in the San Juans, two young girls are targeted by a guest at the Aurora Point Hotel. When the man grabs one of them, Edith Chase, her grandmother, takes action, and what she does leads to them moving away and turning their back on the old hotel.

Now, shortly after her grandmother’s death, Madeline has inherited the Sanctuary Creek chain of hotels. Jack Rayner, head of her security team, has just helped her deal with a personal problem, so when she gets a call from Tom Lomax, the caretaker on Cooper Island, the two of them head off to see what is happening.

When they arrive, they discover a whole series of problems, beginning with Tom’s murder. A missing briefcase linked to the long-ago secret lead to them finding Madeline’s friend and secret sister Daphne Knight in Denver, who has just discovered that someone ransacked her condo.

On the island, they are joined by Jack’s brother and partner Abe, and together begin sorting through the clues. How are the powerful Webster family, so-called “owners” of the island, connected to the events in the present? Do Egan and Louisa have secrets from the past, too? Are the sons Travis and Xavier involved? Explosions, murders, and many dastardly deeds turn up a slew of suspects, some more nefarious than the others. The story held plenty of suspense, a bit of romance, and a satisfactory resolution.

Secret Sisters was a twisted and somewhat convoluted tale that kept me rapidly turning pages, wondering how Jack and his associates would sort it all out. Even when I thought we had the bad guys identified, there were more loose ends that kept me reading. A perfect 5 star read, since I couldn’t stop reading…and hadn’t figured it all out until the end.

REVIEW: NOVEMBER 9, BY COLLEEN HOOVER

25092686

 

As Fallon sits in a restaurant with her father, the critical and neglectful man who has done nothing to improve her spirits after a tragic fire that changed her life, they are interrupted by a handsome young man, Ben, who immediately inserts himself into their conversation.

Fallon is blown away by how good looking he is, and how he seems to really see her, scars and all, without even wincing.

They spend the day together in LA, knowing that Fallon will fly off to NY that night…and perhaps never see each other again.

But the intense pull they feel for one another will not be satisfied by one day. It is Ben’s idea to meet again every year on November 9, a significant anniversary for Fallon. What will happen to the two of them? Can they build something on these once-a-year moments?

I was prepared to be drawn into a typical romance, and while there were some of these elements in the story as the two of them met each year, things began to change. A fight between Ben and one of his brothers, the sense that something big is going on…Now the story opens up many possibilities as I began to wonder what more is stirring beneath the surface. What, if anything, is actually behind the date they met, and what led Ben to suggest the annual get-togethers on that date? He is writing a novel based on the premise, so could he be using the relationship as a plot twist? Can something real be built on a story idea?

And then there are some obstacles created by a misunderstanding or two, a death, and the angst of the separations. What would ultimately break them apart? Could anything bring them back together, especially after Fallon discovers the big secret Ben has been keeping?

I couldn’t put November 9 down, and I was eager to find the answers to all my questions. A 5 star read recommended for fans of Hoover…and fans of love.

MONTHLY WRAP-UP: SOME FABULOUS READS!

 

Wow!  How could August be over already?  Summer is ending, and it all just flew by.  The good news:  I read more books this month than last.  The not-so-good news: not as many as some previous months.

There were some stunning books on my stack.  Click the titles for my reviews, and tell me about your month.

***

 

AUGUST 2015:

1.  Apple & Rain (e-book), by Sarah Crossan – 329 pages – (coming-of-age fiction) – 8/12/15

2.  At Risk (e-book), by Alice Hoffman – 274 pages – (historical fiction) – 8/8/15

3.  A Window Opens (e-book), by Elisabeth Egan – 384 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 8/4/15 (NetGalley)

4.  Before the Storm (e-book), by Diane Chamberlain – 437 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 8/31/15

5.   Cold Spring Harbor (e-book), by Richard Yates – 178 pages – (literary fiction) – 8/17/15

6.   Friday on My Mind, by Nicci French – 375 pages – (suspense thriller/mystery) – 8/10/15

7.   In the Unlikely Event (e-book), by Judy Blume – 397 pages – (historical fiction) – 8/30/15

8.  Lost Lake (e-book), by Sarah Addison Allen – 294 pages – (fantasy/contemporary fiction) – 8/7/15.

9.   Mistake I Made, The (e-book), by Paula Daly – 368 pages – (suspense thriller) – 8/24/15- (NetGalley)

10. My Real Children (e-book), by Jo Walton – 320 pages – (historical fiction) – 8/22/15

11. One Moment, One Morning (e-book), by Sarah Rayner – 416 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 8/26/15

12.  Summer Girls, The (e-book), by Mary Alice Monroe – 380 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 8/20/15

13.  We Never Asked for Wings, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – 294 – (literary fiction) – 8/15/15 (Amazon Vine)

14.  X (Kinsey Millhone #24) (e-book), by Sue Grafton – 416 pages – (suspense/mystery) – 8/14/15 (NetGalley)

***

BOOKS READ IN AUGUST 2015:  14

PAGES READ IN AUGUST 2015:   4,862

BOOKS READ YTD:  123

FAVORITE FICTION READ IN AUGUST –  Tied:   The Mistake I Made & The Summer Girls

***

REVIEW: HOUR OF NEED, BY MELINDA LEIGH

91EN0eeWVBL._SL1500_

 

 

When Lee and Kate Barrett head out for a night to celebrate their 10th anniversary, they are each thinking of some of the obstacles in their lives. Even a year ago, they weren’t sure the marriage would continue. So the night is bittersweet.

At home, their two children, Carson, 6, and Faith, 4 months, are with the teenage babysitter, Julia, who lives next door.

Before the night is over, the two of them will be dead, shot by an unknown assailant.

In Afghanistan, Major Grant Barrett, Lee’s brother, receives the call that sends him back home to Scarlet Falls, NY, to help pick up the pieces. He finds that handling the traumatized children is a huge challenge…but he also discovers help from Ellie Ross, Julia’s mother, and eventually from his siblings Hannah and Mac.

But none of them are really equipped to handle the long term care of the children. What will happen to them? And how does a case Lee was working on figure into the murders? Why is someone stalking and threatening Ellie, an administrative assistant at the law firm?

Hour of Need (Scarlet Falls) is told from multiple perspectives, including one narrative from a man named Donny, presumably the killer/stalker. But who is he working for? And what mysteries in Lee’s life will lead them all to the answers?

A case of bullying amongst a group of ice skaters, a girl’s presumed suicide, and some parents willing to do anything for their guilty daughters add intriguing layers to the story. As each potential killer is exposed, I thoroughly enjoyed trying to guess who was behind it all. The surprising reveal was satisfying, and so were the romantic developments between Grant and Ellie. I found the interludes between them fun to watch, even as they thought that any future between them was impossible due to Grant’s eminent return to Afghanistan.

As with every book I have read by this author, I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of mystery and romance. 5 stars.

REVIEW: THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY, BY BETHANY CHASE

22716454

 

 

For the past seven years, Sarina Mahler has quietly obsessed over the one passionate night she spent with handsome Olympic swimmer, Eamon Roy, wondering why, after that fabulous night they had together, he left town without a word. And why she hasn’t heard from him since.

Yes, she has had other relationships since. In fact, she is currently involved with Noah Harlow, an attorney, who wants to marry her. But for the time being, he is working on a long term project in Argentina. It will be months before he returns.

And now Eamon is coming back to Austin, and will be at a party tonight thrown by their mutual friends, one of whom is Sarina’s roommate, Danny.

A successful architect, Sarina loves everything about her life…except for that obsessive niggling inside about what might have been.

The One That Got Away: A Novel is a fun and enjoyable story of what happens after. What Sarina discovers, and the push and pull of her life as she begins to realize that there was a lot more to the story of what happened, kept me turning pages. But can she trust this second chance? And what about Noah?

What I loved most about the story: how the author gave us an insider’s peek into some of the design projects Sarina was involved in. And I also loved seeing what her home town in Virginia looked like when she went there for a sad event. I could almost hear the bluegrass music. Poignant moments.

Eamon was a dreamy character, and I loved the dialogue between him and Sarina, as they became good friends and as she started renovating a house for him.

Noah, on the other hand, was boring and overly conservative, with very definite ideas about what his life with Sarina would look like. He seemed like a good person, but not right for someone creative like Sarina.

As the story unfolded, I knew how I wanted things to go…but I kept wondering about what might happen until the very end. I liked this one a lot, but I didn’t love it. 4 stars.

HAPPINESS AS AN ART FORM: A REVIEW

81j6ETg7+hL._SL1500_

The story begins by introducing the reader to Guido Morris and Vincent Cardworthy, third cousins and best friends.

A little history of their lives thus far is woven into a tale that soon shows the reader some of their romantic escapades and then, finally, settles into how they eventually pick their marital partners and begin their “real lives.”

Not really a romance, Happy All the Time (Vintage Contemporaries) is instead a peek into the lives of four people: Holly, who seems perfect on the surface and who marries Guido, but who needs little retreats every now and then to maintain her composure; then there is Misty, who is something of a chaotic personality, with pessimism a guiding force; when she ends up with optimistic Vincent, one would think that they would be a mismatch. But the opposite turns out to be true. These four people find one another and discover that “happiness is an art form that requires energy, discipline, and talent.”

This novel is described as a “delightful comedy of manners and morals…about romantic friendship, romantic marriage and romantic love.”

I found myself smiling a lot as I read this story that shared the wonderful details of daily life, with all the challenges of living with a partner. The characters were drawn in such a way that I could visualize them completely. It has been awhile since I’ve read anything by this author, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I liked the theme of happiness, with its underlying promise that one can actually create happiness with the right attitude. Four stars.

FINDING A SAFE HAVEN — A REVIEW

 

 

 

When Jayne Sullivan headed to a small town in Maine, she was determined to capture images of a reclusive artist. But almost from the very first moments after her arrival, nothing is turning out to be what she expected.

First she is captivated by a mysterious handyman, Reed Kimball, and then she begins to discover various townspeople who seem to vary from unfriendly to strange.

While sorting out the events as they unfold, and before she can catch her breath, she is abducted and held prisoner in a damp basement, with no hope that she’ll ever escape. Her captor wears a mask and a cloak, and all she can see is a pair of intense blue eyes.

Fortunately, she is trained in martial arts and is able to break free, using skill and the element of surprise. But her journey toward finding the answers to the strange goings-on in this frightening town are only beginning. And never mind ever finding the artist who is definitely determined to hide.

Who can she trust and what can she know to be true? Suddenly everyone starts to look like the potential abductor and any pair of blue eyes could be those of her captor. Can she even believe in the goodness in Reed, who rescued her on the road after her escape?

All of the characters in Midnight Exposure seemed potentially suspect, including law enforcement. Even as I started to figure out who might have targeted Jayne and several others, I was thrown a curve at the end of this exciting page-turner that was a great mix of mystery and romance. As much as I enjoyed this book, I had trouble liking most of the characters. The author’s ability to evoke emotions with her characterizations is a plus. The motivations that drove the killer stretched credibility, however, so I’m awarding this one four stars. Recommended for fans of suspense and romance.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? — A REVIEW

Do you believe in magic? What if your childhood imaginary friend reappeared during your adulthood, just at the time when you needed him most? What if you do remember each other, which isn’t supposed to happen? What if the one “person” who isn’t real seems more real than anyone else you know?

In a charming story of love, magic, and happily-ever-after, Sundays at Tiffany’s delves into these and other questions, reminding us that sometimes the unexpected moments in life are the most precious.

Jane Margaux’s imaginary friend disappeared when she was nine, because those are the “rules,” according to Michael, that very special friend. So when he appears again, years later, who knew that love would follow?

The story alternates between Jane’s and Michael’s perspectives and moves quickly through the events that define their unexpected and magical love. Just when you think you have it all figured out, the story will surprise you.

A contemporary New York tale that defies logic, this story earned five magical stars from me.