Boardwalk Summer Review & Giveaway

Boardwalk Summer: A Novel (Paperback)


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Having read and reviewed Meredith’s debut, The Dressmaker’s Dowry, I was eager to get my hands on her newest.  Might I say I enjoyed this one even more?  You guys, this is the perfect beach read.

Alternating between Santa Cruz in 2007 and 1940, we are first introduced to Violet Harcourt, a beauty queen with a troubling secret.  In 2007, Marisol Cruz, a single mother and waitress, is doing everything in her power to preserve the town’s history when she first notices a photograph of Violet.  Her research leads to some startling discoveries.

I was completely swept up in both stories and couldn’t wait to find out more background.  It was obvious that a lot of historical research was done and the author had me hooked from the first chapter.  I felt all the characters were fully formed and made the right choices given their backgrounds.

For me, and what kept me from a full 5 stars, was just the coincidence of how a few storylines played out.  Instead of it being a surprise, I just felt it was too convenient and unrealistic.  I don’t want to share more as to avoid spoilers.  That being said, I will be thrilled to continue reading Meredith’s work.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, this is such a light read and would be perfect for a beach bag or plane ride.  In fact, I started it on the plane and would have finished if not for my lack of sleep the 3 days prior.

My thanks to the publisher for a review copy.

About the author: USA Today bestselling author Meredith Jaeger was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, the daughter of a Swiss father and an American mother. While working for a San Francisco start-up, Meredith fulfilled her dream of writing a novel, the result of which was The Dressmaker,s Dowry. Meredith lives in Alameda with her husband, their infant daughter, and their bulldog.

 

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Small Great Things Review

Small Great Things: A Novel (Hardcover)


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I was in high school when I learned that OJ Simpson had been acquitted of the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.  I remember the Bronco chase, I remember the trial, and I remember exactly where I was when they announced the verdict.  But because I was in school, I didn’t get to watch the day-to-day trial coverage or know much more than the jury found him not guilty.  So recently my husband and I binge-watched the FX series “American Crime Story: The People VS. OJ Simpson.”  I was fascinated to see how much race played a role in the trial and the outcome.  I had no idea.

As I was reading Small Great Things, I was reminded of the OJ case.  Everything from jury selection and being stuck with the assigned judge all the way through adding an African-American lawyer to second chair the case for image purposes.  My point is this: OJ was acquitted 21 years ago.  Jodi’s book released this October, of 2016.  We haven’t made much progress in race relations.

Small Great Things tells the story of Ruth, an educated African-American labor & delivery nurse who is accused of murder after white supremacist parents forbid her from touching their baby and the infant dies after a routine medical procedure.  Looking for a scapegoat, the parents, Turk & Brit, immediately take action against the hospital and Ruth specifically.  The story is told through the points of view of Ruth, Turk, and Ruth’s white public defender, Kennedy.

I can imagine you, like me, will find sections tough to read because of how honest and real they are.  It’s amazing to me how Jodi portrays three completely different characters with such grace. The words are important.  I had to step away a time or two to remind myself that this was fiction because they were written with such credibility.  And I applaud her determination to write this book when she knew she would get different reactions.

Equally as important as this book is the author’s note at the end.  Please do not skip over that when you finish.

If you can imagine being shocked more at how race is handled in our justice system today, be sure to read Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson.  An incredible nonfiction book that should be required reading for every American.

My sincere thanks to Penguin Random House for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

img_1449About the author:

Jodi Picoult is the author of twenty-two novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers “The Storyteller,” “Lone Wolf,” “Between the Lines,” “Sing You Home,” “House Rules,” “Handle with Care,” “Change of Heart,” “Nineteen Minutes,” and “My Sister’s Keeper.” She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children.

Book Spotlight: The Choices We Make

The Choices We Make: A Novel (Paperback)


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Synopsis from Amazon:

Following her bestselling debut novel Come Away with Me, Karma Brown returns with an unforgettable story that explores the intricate dynamics of friendship and parenthood

Hannah and Kate became friends in the fifth grade, when Hannah hit a boy for looking up Kate’s skirt with a mirror. While they’ve been close as sisters ever since, Hannah can’t help but feel envious of the little family Kate and her husband, David, have created—complete with two perfect little girls.

She and Ben have been trying for years to have a baby, so when they receive the news that she will likely never get pregnant, Hannah’s heartbreak is overwhelming. But just as they begin to tentatively explore the other options, it’s Kate’s turn to do the rescuing. Not only does she offer to be Hannah’s surrogate, but Kate is willing to use her own eggs to do so.

Full of renewed hope, excitement and gratitude, these two families embark on an incredible journey toward parenthood…until a devastating tragedy puts everything these women have worked toward at risk of falling apart. Poignant and refreshingly honest, The Choices We Make is a powerful tale of an incredible friendship and the risks we take to make our dreams come true.

image About the author:

KARMA BROWN is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author of Come Away With Me, who spends a lot of time writing in coffee shops. When not mulling plot lines, she can be found running with her husband, coloring (outside the lines) with her daughter, and perfecting her banana bread recipe. Karma lives just outside Toronto with her family. The Choices We Make is her second novel.

Thank you to Book Sparks for allowing us to share this book with our readers.

No Ordinary Life Review

No Ordinary Life (Paperback)


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I rushed through Suzanne’s first novel, Hush Little Baby, when it came out.  Impossible to put down, I was recommending it to everybody.  So as soon as I found out she had a new book, I knew I had to read it.

No Ordinary Life does not disappoint.  Once again, Suzanne captures motherhood in a new and enlightening way, all with a pace that has you quickly flipping the pages.

She tells the story of Faye, a single mother, down on her luck and money, struggling to keep her kids fed and happy after her truck driver husband takes off for the millionth time.  She knows she can’t afford to stay where she is, so she packs the kids up from the one place they know to move in with her mom in Los Angeles.  When her youngest daughter, Molly, is discovered when a video of hers goes viral, Faye has to determine whether the sacrifices she’s making in order to earn money are worth it to keep her family together.

While not a single mother, with a husband working two jobs, I can certainly relate to Faye’s feelings about trying to keep it all together.  It’s a feeling I struggle with on a daily basis because there is barely any time for yourself.  And no matter how many kids a mother has, it’s almost impossible not to feel guilty that you’re paying more attention to one than any other.

I loved the short chapters in this novel because I was able to just tell myself “One more chapter” just to get back to it.  And with a Hollywood curiosity, I was fascinated reading about it from the perspective of a star’s mother, a unique approach to what we see in the magazines and tabloids.  So while most people cannot relate to the storyline, they absolutely can relate to being a sibling or a mother.

As usual, I cannot wait to get my hands on Suzanne’s next novel.  She has a loyal reader in me.

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing and Suzanne’s publicist for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

image About the Author

Suzanne Redfearn is the author of No Ordinary Life, a Target Emerging Author selection, and Hush Little Baby, a Target Recommends selection and a Target Emerging Author selection.

She graduated summa cum laude from California Polytechnic University and, prior to becoming an author, was an architect. She is an avid surfer, golfer, skier, and Angels fan. She lives with her husband and children in Southern California. No Ordinary Life is her second novel.

Connect with her on Facebook, Goodreads, and her website.

19 Can’t Miss Debut Reads

Oftentimes with the first book of an author, you might not be very impressed and hope that in time their writing and stories improve.  In the cases of these talented novelists, I couldn’t wait for their next release because the debut was incredible.  Here are my 19 Can’t Miss Debut Reads in no particular order.

imageCalling Me Home by Julie Kibler

As soon as I finished this one, I wanted to give it a hug and never let go.  This was the best women’s fiction novel I had read in years.  It broke my heart and comforted me at the same time.  Aside from the main story focusing on race relations, it tells a story of an unlikely friendship between a young and old woman as they take a road trip.

imageThe Magician’s Lie by Greer McAllister

I’ve always been fascinated by illusionists and magicians, so I knew this story of a female illusionist would be a perfect match.  I read this in 24 hours because of how compulsively readable it was.  If you liked The Night Circus, don’t miss this one.  So excited to see a movie in the works too!

imageBeautiful Malice by Rebecca James

Imagine being a teenager and having to move to a new city.  You’re the kind who doesn’t intentionally draw attention to yourself but now you are befriended by the most popular girl at school.  Would you trust her to keep your secrets? This is a true “not everyone is who they seem” story.

imageJulia’s Chocolates by Cathy Lamb

Once I finished this book, I became a lifelong fan of Cathy Lamb.  She puts so much love and personality into her characters.  After leaving her abusive fiancé at the altar, Julia is on the run.  This novel has a hopeful message but is filled with funny and unusual characters and scenarios along the way.

imageOnce We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson

A legal thriller and a story of a family torn apart during the Holocaust, this book had me flipping the pages to discover what happens next.  It was originally self-published but came so highly recommended and popular that St. Martin’s Press had to publish it under their imprint.  If the WWII era is a must read for you, don’t miss out on this one.

imageWhat Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross

This novel asks the question, What defines “motherhood”?  Is it the act of giving birth or raising a child?  Can it be one or the other?  Book clubs will have lively discussions surrounding those questions as they learn a 4-month-old baby is kidnapped from a shopping cart and raised by a woman eager to have a baby.

imageBefore I Go by Colleen Oakley

Have tissues handy.  The protagonist in this novel, Daisy, beats cancer once only to find out it has returned and she only has months to live.  In her short time left, she wants to make sure her husband is taken care of, so she sets out to find him a wife.  Oakley sprinkles some humor throughout so the book isn’t a complete downer and had me thinking of what I would do in a similar situation.

imageThe Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley

Another great read for book clubs, this thought-provoking novel is a ripped from the headlines story and has you questioning your beliefs.  Sibley is a former nurse and writes from experience.  As a family is torn apart dealing with an ethical dilemma, the reader is left wondering how it will play out.

imageStill Missing by Chevy Stevens

This disturbing thriller put Stevens on the map for page-turning mysteries and now I won’t miss one.  If you want an easy to read book, the short chapters make for one that won’t take you forever.  If you like shows like CSI and Criminal Minds, be sure to give this author a try.

imageA Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

Art, antiques, love, Paris.  That was enough to win me over.  But I loved how Gable combined two storylines, one historical and one in the present to unearth the truth.  So much of that reminded me of a favorite author, Sarah Jio.

imageShelter Me by Juliette Fay

I was worried a book about a widower and her young children wouldn’t be able to hold me captive but I was glad I was wrong.  You will find yourself cheering for this flawed mother as she takes the year to reflect on heartbreak and forgiveness and realizes you don’t have to do it all alone.

imageLetters from Home by Kristina McMorris

In this day and age, when we so commonly communicate with emails and texts, reading this historical fiction told through handwritten letters was refreshing.  The story is based in part on the love story of her grandparents. So if you need a book to pull you out of your fast-paced and hectic life into a romance of an earlier generation, this is it.

imageThe Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

As soon as I finished reading this one, I started recommending it to friends.  It is absolutely going on my best reads of 2016 list, as it had the most unique storyline I’ve ever read.  I was completely caught up in this spellbinding premise and loved how Guskin was even able to incorporate a mystery.

imageRoses by Leila Meacham

Roses is a saga in every sense of the word, one that spans three generations of three families over the 20th century.  Even though it’s hefty at over 600 pages, it reads quickly because you’ll be eager to learn the fates of these families.  Gone with the Wind fans will especially enjoy this one.

imageThe Good Girl by Mary Kubica

When you see a psychological thriller debut being compared to Gone Girl, you are likely to be skeptical.  But Kubica really hit it out of the ballpark with this novel and did it with such ease.  New writers will be having their books compared to hers in the future.  Read more about this book and Kubica’s writing process in my interview with her here.

imageA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

I did not know what to expect when I received this book. Hailed as an international bestseller, this novel from Sweden didn’t seem like it was up my alley. It follows Ove, a grumpy widower not sure how to spend his days other than doing daily neighborhood inspections. As the book quickly grew on me, so did Ove. I dare you to read this and not feel good when you’re done.

imageA Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison

This is a beautifully written story about an extremely ugly topic, human trafficking.  Addison seamlessly weaves an important message throughout this story.  With a background in law and activism, his books always teach me something new.

imageFive Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

When a new book is blurbed by Jodi Picoult, I know I’m in for a treat.  And sure enough, this didn’t disappoint.  Told in two separate storylines of two characters with five days left before the world they know is changed forever.  This novel constantly had me asking myself, what would I do in their situation?

imageHush Little Baby by Suzanne Redfearn

This emotionally charged story of domestic violence had me so captivated that I neglected my responsibilities while reading it.  It was one of those books where you know what’s going to happen, but you don’t know when or how, like a car crash you can’t turn away from.  All the characters felt so real to me.  It’s impressive when fiction reads like it could be nonfiction.

What debut novels did you love that didn’t make the list?  I would love to hear your recommendations and your reviews on the ones I loved.

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4 Women Authors You Should Know

Do you have a favorite author?  One who whenever they release their newest work gets preordered online as soon as you hear the news?  You’ve read everything they’ve written and have trouble waiting for more?  That’s how I feel about the following four ladies.  For each of them, I’d read their grocery lists if they published them.  They can do no wrong in the writing world.

imageAmy Hatvany

With her sociology background, she really knows how to write women’s fiction and books that are relevant.  Issues that you can imagine the everywoman going through.  Start with Best Kept Secret about Cadence, a mother who tackles a drinking problem, and Safe With Me, about two women who meet under less-than-fortunate circumstances and form a bond that ends up saving them both.

imageDiane Chamberlain

Years ago I stumbled upon Diane’s books and haven’t been able to stop since.  Her power lies in the ability to make all her characters come alive on the page.  She is also known for throwing in a good twist just when you think the story is going in a different direction.  Start with The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes about an infant that goes missing and if the truth will really set you free and an amazing historical fiction novel, Necessary Lies, about a new social worker who befriends a family of tobacco farmers and what role the government should play in their lives.

imageSarah Jio

I think Sarah is the one author that I couldn’t possibly choose a favorite.  She is known to alternate between stories set in the present and the past and sometimes has a mystery thrown in.  Her books have me turning the pages and I can usually finish them in a day or two because you’re swept up in their stories.  She is newer to the women’s fiction scene and trust me, she’s not going anywhere.  Start with her first book, The Violets of March, about Emily, a divorced woman who finds a diary that helps her determine if her love life is over for good and The Bungalow, her second novel about an Army nurse who falls for a soldier and what they discover overseas.

imageEllen Hopkins 

Genius doesn’t begin to describe Ellen, who writes most of her novels in verse.  While it may take some getting used to, I am in awe every time I pick up a new one.  Her books are longer but they fly by because of her writing style.  Just be warned: there is a lot of profanity, drug use, and sex in her books.  She mostly writes YA but has just started venturing out into adult novels as well.  And all her books tackle extremely prevalent issues going on today.  Start with Crank, loosely based on her real-life daughter’s struggle with crystal meth (this is the first one in a trilogy) and  Identical, about identical twins who are trying to find themselves and what really happened in car accident when they were younger.

Any must-read women I should add to my list?  Would love to hear your favorites.