Book Review: When We Found Home by Susan Mallery

Yet another fantastic stand-alone novel by Susan Mallery! When We Found Home, is an engaging story about finding one’s self through a blended family and unexpected friendships. Callie, Keira, and Malcolm are long-lost half siblings. Their grandfather, a wealthy man and business owner, lives in a large home in Seattle. After living most of his life unaware that all three of his grandchildren exist, he is determined to bring his estranged family together, in his home, and provide them with a lifetime of security and love.

Malcolm has known his grandfather for the majority of his life, but Callie and Keira are not as familiar with the relatives of their father, a man they never knew. Callie has a past that she isn’t proud of, one that put her in jail for a good amount of time. Keira has been in and out of foster homes  for most of her life and has never lived in a stable environment. Malcolm runs the family business with his best friend, Santiago, a guy he met in college. He has trust issues that a 20-something adult should not have to deal with. The three siblings can’t be any more different and have a difficult time learning how to communicate and coexist. The daily struggle of their new lives affects all three of the them on a very deep level.

I really enjoyed the family dynamic in When We Found Home. It touched on some tough topics that children face in foster homes, as well as the struggles that blended families encounter. I enjoyed the mix of characters in this novel. Keira’s friend and Malcom’s love interest, Delaney, was my favorite character from the book. Her back story is heartfelt and raw. Every character in this novel is well-developed and has their own interesting narrative. It made the novel even more interesting because there were so many characters to connect to.

Whenever I have the opportunity to review a Susan Mallery book, I always mention how much I love the animal characters in her novels. This time, though, I wasn’t thrilled with the fact that the main animal character in her book is a cat. With that being said, I don’t hold this against the author, I am just not a cat person; I prefer reading about her dog characters.

I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

The Cactus

If you liked Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, then you will LOVE The Cactus by Sarah Haywood. Susan Green is a very endearing protagonist. Her voice bears a striking resemblance to Eleanor Oliphant. The novel, set in London, is a bit slow at first, but give the story a chance, and you may be surprised about how good the narrative turns out to be. This debut novel by Sarah Haywood is certainly a winner in my mind.

Susan’s whole life is based on practicality. She is not impulsive and enjoys to follow rules. She loves her cacti and doesn’t really have any real relationships in her life, besides her mother. After her mother dies, Susan starts spending more time with other family members to try to discover why her mother made her will the way she did. As the story progresses, certain facts about Susan’s life are revealed to the reader. Facts that provide evidence to why Susan is the way she is.

Written in first person, Susan talks to the reader as if you are her friend.  Susan and her brother, Edward, never connected as they were growing up. The lack a familial bonds makes planning a funeral infuriating for Susan. In the midst of trying to cope with the loss of her mother, and the realization that the will her mother made isn’t “fair,” Susan discovers that she is carrying a child she never thought she wanted. Susan is not ready for the extreme life change she is about to endure. For the first time in a long time, Susan begins to accept that she can’t deal with all of these life changes on her own.

While trying to sort out her mother’s will, Susan unintentionally develops a strange friendship with her brother’s temporary roommate , as well as a friendship with her upstairs neighbor, who is a single mother. Susan hasn’t had any legitimate friends in a long time. She keeps to herself at work  and up until getting pregnant,  has had a weird relationship with a man that involved no real emotional attachment. Susan is a fictional character that I would enjoy having high tea with just to see how quirky she really is in person.

All in all, a good read that has depth and interesting characters. I also really, really love the cover. I’m a sucker for a pretty book cover.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Sisters Like Us by Susan Mallery

From Goodreads:

Divorce left Harper Szymanski with a name no one can spell, a house she can’t afford and a teenage daughter who’s pulling away. With her fledgeling virtual-assistant business, she’s scrambling to maintain her overbearing mother’s ridiculous Susie Homemaker standards and still pay the bills, thanks to clients like Lucas, the annoying playboy cop who claims he hangs around for Harper’s fresh-baked cookies.

Spending half her life in school hasn’t prepared Dr. Stacey Bloom for her most daunting challenge—motherhood. She didn’t inherit the nurturing gene like Harper and is in deep denial that a baby is coming. Worse, her mother will be horrified to learn that Stacey’s husband plans to be a stay-at-home dad…assuming Stacey can first find the courage to tell Mom she’s already six months pregnant.

Separately they may be a mess, but together Harper and Stacey can survive anything—their indomitable mother, overwhelming maternity stores and ex’s weddings. Sisters Like Us is a delightful look at sisters, mothers and daughters in today’s fast-paced world, told with Susan Mallery’s trademark warmth and humor

I absolutely adore The Mischief Bay series by Susan Mallery. Sisters Like Us is the fourth novel in the series and each one has been better than the last, including this one. Harper and Stacey are as different as sisters can be but they both have two things in common: they are hard workers and the both love their families unconditionally. Bunny, their mother, is a bit of a nut job. As the girls grew up, she set ridiculous expectations when it came to decorating for holidays (i.e. Groundhog Day) and decorating the table for dinner (every.single.night). As an adult, Harper felt the pressure from her mom and kept her ridiculous traditions alive but Stacey did not. Stacey and Harper are both very interesting characters. They are both strong, independent women who know (mostly) what they want out of life. I really enjoyed reading about about their struggles and triumphs. Harper has the most amazing job, so it seems. Virtual assistant? Yes, please.

As expected, Susan Mallery added a few human-like canine characters to Sisters Like Us; three of them to be exact. Harper’s daughter, Becca, inherited three dobermans from her great aunt after she passed away. All three dogs play an interesting role in the novel. The dog characters in Susan Mallery’s books are always my favorite. I find it so fascinating how she manages to really bring out the true value of a family pet in all of her novels.

Becca’s character pulled at my heart stings. Poor girl couldn’t catch a break. A familiar face does play an important role in not only Becca’s life, but also Harper’s, in Sisters Like Us. Lucas is a featured returning character in this Mischief Bay novel. You have to love to hate him, although I leaned more towards love than hate. Just you wait and see.

Stacey’s feelings about being a mother are real and genuine. More than a few women feel unsure, and uneasy, about how they will transition into motherhood. Before becoming a mom, wondering how to balance family life and work life is a constant internal battle for Stacey. Stacey’s struggle with going back to work while her husband stays home with the baby is an uncommon topic that needs to be approached more often. I love the way Susan Mallery made it a hot topic throughout Stacey’s entire journey. As I have said before, most of the time, you love your baby as soon as you find out you’re having one, but sometimes, more often than we think, it takes a while for mother’s to like their baby. If you’re a mom (or even a dad), you might know this feeling.

Hands down, my favorite book in the series so far. I can’t wait for the next installment to see which characters will pop up again. .

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter

Zoe and her daughter, Gracie, return to Georgia after being away for almost five years. After abruptly leaving everyone she loved when she found out she was pregnant, Zoe has no other choice but to return once again to her small hometown to say goodbye to a woman she loved, her grandmother. She is not only returning to Georgia with her daughter, whom no one has met, she is also returning with her boyfriend, who everyone thinks is Gracie’s father. When Zoe learns that her grandmother has left her peach orchard to her, she is left with a difficult life-alering choice: Does she stay and try to keep the orchard alive? Or leave and return to Nashville to pursue her singing career?  In the midst of choosing which path to take, Zoe is also forced to revisit her feelings for her first love, Cruz. Blue Ridge Sunrise is not only full juicy peaches, it is also full of a juicy love triangle.

At first, I thought Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter was going to be just like several other stories that I have read that are set in the South. Girl falls in love with boy, boy breaks girl’s heart, girl returns to boy, boy wins girl back, cue happy ending music. I was wrong. There is a lot more depth to this novel than I was first led to believe. Shortly after the novel begins, you realize that Zoe is in a relationship not because she wants to be, but because she has to be. As her story unfolds, Zoe is faced with a lot of difficult decisions that a young mother should not have to make. Her mother is unfortunately not around anymore and her father has made it clear that she is a disappointment to the family. Blue Ridge Sunrise is not all rainbows and feel-good dialogue.

Blue Ridge Sunrise did drag on more than I would have liked. There were a few too many plot twists and conflicts that kept making the book seem never-ending. With that aside, I enjoyed the character development of Cruz. Zoe is a little too hard-headed for my liking. She is too indecisive for the majority of the novel. I did have to keep reminding myself that she had done a lot more living in her life than I had when I was 24. Gracie is a very sweet four-year old that anyone reading the book will fall in love with. You can’t help but root for a happy ending for all the character’s in this novel, except Zoe’s boyfriend who isn’t much of a Southern Gentleman.

I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Book Review: Beyond the Castle by Jody Jean Dreyer

When the credits roll and you’ve left the park, when your Disney day is over, how do you take the magic with you into your everyday work and life?

Jody Jean Dreyer worked for the Walt Disney Company for 30 years and in Beyond the Castle she shares one-of-a-kind stories and insights into what sets the Disney experience apart, as well as secrets to help readers discover their own “happily ever after.”

Beginning with her first position as a summer intern at Walt Disney World, through her role leading synergy and special projects for Disney (reporting to former CEO Michael Eisner), to her work with top leadership at Walt Disney Motion Pictures sharing the magic of Disney films around the world, Jody unpacks secrets that can change the way we understand ourselves, our work and relationships, and how we can find our own path to happiness. You will read her stories about working with Walt’s nephew, Roy E. Disney, her front-line role in the opening of theme parks around the world and her own journey to discovering how to bring some Disney magic into every day.

The wish for happy endings is written in our hearts. Every park guest or movie watcher is looking for their own “happily ever after,” as they ask the questions: What’s my story? Does it matter? Will the story end well for me? Jody’s personal experiences and her underpinning faith help her to offer practical and sometimes unexpected principles to better appreciate and navigate our own stories .

Jody’s entertaining storytelling will satisfy a reader’s desire to open the doors and peek inside the castle – and more, to unlock and illuminate life’s true treasure.

I wish I had a better review to write on this book, Beyond the Castle by Jody Jean Dreyer. If you know me well, or even just a little bit, you know that I am one of those crazy Disney-loving adults. I love Disney so much that I have gone to Disney since my child has been born, with my husband, without our child. We plan on going again, in February, without him. I just love Disney so much that even adult only vacations are fun for us. We are going to take him, for the first time, in 2021 for the 50th Anniversary of Disney World. He will be 7 1/2 by then. We like to plan ahead.

With that being said, as soon as I heard about Beyond the Castle: A Guide to Discovering Your Happily Ever After, I had to read it. Did I mention that we had a very subtle Cinderella themed wedding? It was a mash between Cinderella and baseball…because you know, they obviously pair well together. But back to the point at hand,  I was a bit disappointed in this book. If you are looking for some sort of soul searching self-help book, look no further. If you are looking for a ton of inside scoop on Disney World, look somewhere else. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of little known facts, but just not enough for my liking. I wasn’t expecting for the whole self-help aspect of the book to be so overwhelming.

I think the most fascinating part of the book was when I learned that the author, Jody Jean Dreyer was a Disney Ambassador, a program and title that I didn’t know existed. Where do I sign up? I know there is Disney mom type  program. Will someone please let me know when they are hiring? I would like to get paid in Disney Dollars, please and thank you.  Jim and I have talked about retiring in Orlando and working part-time in Disney after we retire. And when I say we both have talked about this collectively, I mean mostly he said it once and I went a little crazy and started doing some research…give me an inch, I usually take a mile.

Another interesting fact I learned is that popcorn is seasoned differently at every park around the world. I don’t like popcorn but when we were on our babymoon, yes we went to Disney on our babymoon but not our honeymoon, I craved that popcorn the entire time I was there. I refused to buy it, though, because I knew I would be disappointed. Mainly because, I do not like popcorn, as I said, but it is a smell that makes Disney what it is. The smell of Main Street triggers many memories of childhood.

Although I don’t have rave reviews for this book, it is somewhat interesting and worth the read if you are a big Disney fan. I just wouldn’t buy it with high expectations. It isn’t a page turner and it isn’t worth buying for you plane ride to Disney to build excitement.

I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

From Goodreads:

“The bad man, Daddy. The bad man is after us.” 

Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon.

Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit.

Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara’s investigation and Nick’s last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.

Mary Kubica never disappoints. Her latest thriller, Every Last Lie, is nothing less than amazing. I don’t understand how she keeps writing one fantastic book after another.

Written from the two main characters perspectives, Nick and Clara, Every Last Lie goes back and forth between before the accident and after the accident. Each chapter paves the the way up to when and how the accident happened. I felt every emotion Clara felt while reading this novel. I wanted to jump into the book and hug her little girl, Maisie. I wanted to help her figure out what happened to her husband and why. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does Maise have to grow up without a dad. Why does Felix have to grow up without a dad? Every Last Lie reminds us that life isn’t fair.

On top of Clara losing her husband, and her mind, she is also dealing with her mother’s dementia. There are so many layers to this story and not every answer is cut and dry. Every Last Lie has me taking the many turns we have in our area a little slower. It is a good reminder that life is precious and sometimes too short. You never know when you life might end. You never know when your last wake-up will be. I appreciate every day just a little bit more after reading Mary Kubica’s eye-opening novel, Every Last Lie.

Nick is one crazy character. You can’t help but feel bad for him but you also can’t help but blame him. I kept rooting for him, hoping he was the good guy Clara believed him to be. I was rooting for him because no wife wants to find out her husband screwed up and was lying to her for so long. You only want fond memories of someone after they die, not a bitter taste left in your mouth.

Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica can be purchased on June 27, 2017.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Big Look Bible Book by Make Believe Ideas

All aboard! Come join Joseph, Adam, Eve, Mary, Jesus, Noah, Daniel, and David on this boat to learning about the Bible. Each page is bright, beautiful, and creatively shaped so that little hands can turn the pages. The Big Look Bible Book is engaging and fun. It makes these important bible stories relateable and easy to understand. It is perfect for bedtime stories for a baby or for a toddler.

My favorite pages in the book are for the Noah’s Ark story. The animals are colorful and absolutely adorable. I want to take the pictures right out of this book and hang them on the wall. Each story is only a couple sentences long which makes it a good conversation starter with a toddler who doesn’t have the attention span to read longer versions of each Bible story. I can’t say enough wonderful things about The Big Look Bible Book. It is a must buy for anyone who wants to to include religion in their child’s life in an easy to understand way.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review: The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton

The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton is a very sweet and refreshing story about family. I loved all of the quirky characters especially Sara. The story flips between past and present day and alternating narratives between Sara (present) and her grandmother, Mags (past).

When Sara receives a phone call from her grandmother’s lawyer, she knows he isn’t calling with good news. She returns to the home she grew up in, after her parents tragically died, to discover that the grandmother she knew had more than one secret that she kept hidden within the Bed and Breakfast she owned. Now that the B&B belongs to Sara, it is up to her to redo it and then decide if she wants to keep it or not. She hires a local contractor to help her visions come to life. As the process begins, Sara starts to feel at home in Sweet Bay, Alabama, once again.

The Hideaway isn’t a functioning Bed & Breakfast anymore. It is the home of four people who Sara’s grandmother calls family. These people love Sara just like they would their own daughter. Not only is The Hideaway filled with people who permanently live there, it is also filled with memories and undiscovered treasures, including a mysterious ring. Sara isn’t immune to treasures of her own. She runs and own her antique own store back in New Orleans, where she has been since she graduated high school. Throughout the story she struggles between the past she always knew at The Hideaway and the busy life she has learned to love in New Orleans. As she slows down in Sweet Bay, she also discovers that she might be falling in love.

Sara has a lot of choices to make in The Hideaway. She also has a lot of guilt she has to deal with. She was always embarrassed by her oddball grandmother while she was growing up and now that she is gone, she wishes she made the effort to come back and visit more once she moved away to New Orleans.

I loved every page of this book. I really enjoyed discovering Mags’ past right along with Sara. It is amazing what some families have had to endure in the past just because money was involved. How parents chose husband’s for their daughters because of their families reputation. Mags deserved happiness and I wish her life turned out differently. Even though she didn’t always have romantic love in her life, she always had friends and family in her life. I really liked the Bed & Breakfast concept in this novel. I really enjoy visiting B & B’s and reading about them. Every house has a story. Every wall holds a secret that is waiting to be discovered.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange of an honest review.

Book Review: Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

From Goodreads:

When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she spirals into a depression that ultimately causes her to lose everything that matters–her job, her husband, David, and her stepdaughter, Nora. Now, two years later and with the help of her hearing dog, Stitch, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush by the river, deep in the woods near her cabin, she is plunged into a disturbing mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again.

As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice?

New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf has been described as “masterful” and “intelligent” and compared to Lisa Scottoline and Jodi Picoult. Introducing her most compelling heroine yet, she delivers a taut and emotional thriller that proves she’s at the top of her class.

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf is a remarkable thriller that leaves you breathless at the end. As soon as I started reading the novel I knew I would not be able to put it down. Written in first person, Amelia Winn describes how the events unfold after she discovers a former friend and fellow nurse, Gwenn, dead in the river behind her house. Amelia Winn is deaf and a recovering alcoholic. She lives in a cabin with her service dog, Stitch. Once again, the dog character is my favorite. Stitch is a real hero. He is a silly dog that doesn’t always listen but when he knows there is a job to do, he is loyal companion.

Not a Sound is full of suspense and had me second guessing every single character’s motives. At one point, I even thought Amelia was an unreliable narrator and killed Gwen herself. I am pretty sure I stopped breathing for the last 20-30 pages, I could not read them fast enough. The entire novel took me up and down an emotional roller coaster over and over again, by the end I was all but nauseous. (In a good way, of course.)

Amelia Winn is a compelling character. I was rooting for her to get her life back together. She lost her hearing in a tragic accident. Along with the loss of her ability to hear, she also lost the best parts of her life, her job, her husband, her step-daughter, and her independence. Granted, the accident didn’t lead to losing all of these life pleasures we sometimes take for granted, alcohol aided in many of them. Amelia’s husband David, didn’t seem to be the most supportive husband when it came to accepting the aftermath of Amelia’s accident. Not that turning to alcohol was the right choice, but I don’t think her husband was very compassionate about the whole situation.

Jake, Amelia’s brother’s childhood best friend, who is also a detective, is another major character in the novel that you can’t help but root for. Amelia and Jake’s relationship isn’t black and white. Throughout the novel they end up dipping their toes into a grey area. Amelia has always had a crush on Jake but she thinks Jake only thinks of her as a sister. Their back and forth friendship is one of the many highlights this bone-chilling novel.

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf will be available for purchase on May 30, 2017. You can pre-order it today!

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review: The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares

From Goodreads:

Summer for Sasha and Ray means the sprawling old house on Long Island. Since they were children, they’ve shared almost everything—reading the same books, running down the same sandy footpaths to the beach, eating peaches from the same market, laughing around the same sun-soaked dining table. Even sleeping in the same bed, on the very same worn cotton sheets. But they’ve never met.

Sasha’s dad was once married to Ray’s mom, and together they had three daughters: Emma, the perfectionist; Mattie, the beauty; and Quinn, the favorite. But the marriage crumbled and the bitterness lingered. Now there are two new families—and neither one will give up the beach house that holds the memories, happy and sad, of summers past.

The choices we make come back to haunt us; the effect on our destinies ripples out of our control…or does it? This summer, the lives of Sasha, Ray, and their siblings intersect in ways none of them ever dreamed, in a novel about family relationships, keeping secrets, and most of all, love.

The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares is a confusing story that made me think “Why am I reading this?” over and over again. I loved The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. Ever since then, Ann Brashares books, at least the ones that I have read, haven’t lived up to my expectations. There are too many characters in this novel. The first page outlines who is related to who and which kids belong to which sets of parents. I still found myself referring back to this page throughout the entire novel.

The Whole Thing Together gave me an uneasy feeling. Every character had an issue with confrontation and avoided multiple problems in their lives until it was too late. Ray and Sasha are the two main characters. One belongs to one set of parents and the other belong to the other set of parents. They share one job and three sisters. They also share a beach house, and oddly enough, share a room, and have never met. Sounds crazy, right? It is. Somehow these two finally run into each other and sort of fall in love. When I say sort of, I mean, even though they are not related, they kind of are, considering the circumstances. It’s weird. Just really, really weird.

The main conflict is that a divorce split a family in half. The resolution…not really existent. There are a lot of strange subplots that don’t really fit in that just waste page space. By the time a few issues were being resolved, the book was over, just like that. It takes a tragedy to open their eyes and realize that life is too short to hold grudges. Not that this is actually said, it is only assumed on my part.

I liked the the email exchanges between Ray and Sasha. I liked how they shared a job and their boss kept referring to them as the same person. But that’s about all I liked. I finished it because I thought there would be an epic ending. And there was, it just wasn’t a good one. It was just depressing and left be unfulfilled and exhausted.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Random House LLC.