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: 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: 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: The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller


Louise Miller’s debut novel, The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living, is a hit. After a baking disaster at a club in Boston, Olivia Rawlings flees the scene and escapes to her best friend’s small town, Guthrie, Vermont. Shortly after arriving, Hannah sets Olivia up with a job interview at a local B & B, The Sugar Maple Inn. From big city to a small kitchen, Olivia has her work cut out for her. Her eccentric style and decadent baked goods quickly win over more than a few hearts in Guthrie.

Small town living is one of my favorite things to read about. Since we are going to Vermont in a few weeks, I knew The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living would be the perfect book to read before we left. I didn’t think I would read it so fast, but once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. Almost every character in this novel is so sweet and friendly, except for the horrible Jane White; what a wench! The owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, Margaret, is a bit rough around the edges. I like that she has a backstory that isn’t an easy to tell, it keeps her interesting. Her best friend, Dotty, has an amazing family that Olivia quickly becomes a part of. Dotty’s husband, Henry, is sick, which is ridiculously depressing. Their love story is adorable. Olivia’s dog, Salty, plays a big role in the book, as well.

I really enjoyed reading about the life of a baker. I can barely bake a cake without screwing it up. It always amazes me how people can bake such intricate desserts with such ease. Reading this book made me want to run to the nearest bakery and buy them out. Not good idea for someone who just started a new workout regime in January. Luckily, we did have some pie last weekend that satisfied some of my cravings while reading the novel. One of the major conflicts in the story is centered around an apple pie baking contest that Margaret used to win when her husband was alive. After he passed, the evil Jane White started winning the blue ribbons. At the end of the book, the winning apple pie recipe is featured. I feel inspired to try it out. I have never made a pie from scratch before.

Book Review: The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff


From Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby. She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep… When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her. And in a moment that will change the course of her life, she snatches one of the babies and flees into the snowy night.

Noa finds refuge with a German circus, but she must learn the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff is an incredible story. A tale of friendship, family, and love comes alive in a place where one would least expect it: a time of war and a time of fear. Noa has had to grow up faster than any 16 year old should. She has been shunned by her biological family, given up her child unwillingly, and has rescued a Jewish child from the brink of death. With little hope of staying alive, Noa does all she can to protect this child, a child that isn’t even her own. When she is found in the woods, she is taken to a practice grounds for the circus. Since it is winter, she is given very little time to prove herself so that she can travel from Germany to France and perform as a part of the flying trapeze.

Astrid, Noa’s trainer, grew up with her family’s circus and left to marry a German, even though she is Jewish. After forcing a divorce on her, Astrid finds her family’s rival circus and is asked to join them with the promise of her own safety. The two girls need each other to survive but that doesn’t mean the road to survival is easy. During her short time with the circus, Noa learns that sometimes family can be found in places one wouldn’t think to look.

I am kind of obsessed with the mysteries behind the circus life. This is strange for me because I am one of those people who is terrified of clowns. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is one of my favorite books, as well as, Menagerie by Rachael Vincent.  We are lead to believe that the life of circus performers is full of magic, romance, and fun. In reality, circus life is a hard work, and for some people, like Noa and Astrid in The Orphan’s Tale, their only hope of survival.

Historical fiction is a genre I don’t read often. With that being said, I do enjoy learning more about WWII through fiction, no matter how horrifying and tragic the story may be. I had no idea that Jewish infants were sent on trains during the war to concentration camps: Left to die from frostbite, hunger, and lack of care. This is a devastating fact that Pam Jenoff wants her readers to be aware of. As WWII drifts further into our past, we mustn’t forget how horrific it was. Everyone, no matter what their religion, job, or age, was at risk of being arrested and sent far away. The fear that every single person woke up with, and fell asleep with, is described throughout The Orphan’s Tale.

It is surprising that during the war, circuses were still allowed to practice, travel, perform. It wasn’t easy for them, a long list of rules kept them from touring as they normally would, but as they say in the circus world, “The show must go on.” In a time of high stress, these performers brought joy to those who could still afford little luxuries. The circus was a place where a few Jewish performers tried to escape the Holocaust. Ringmasters took great risks, like Herr Neuhoff in the novel, to protect these people from concentration camps; unsung heroes that you won’t learn about in your history books. One of the stories that influenced Pam Jenoff to write this fictional story can be found here.

The characters in The Orphan’s Tale are inspiring. They show an enormous amount of courage which helps them overcome obstacles, not only to protect themselves, but also to protect each other. The ending on this novel is heartbreaking and unexpected. The Orphan’s Tale provides a unique look at WWII and how even during a time of darkness, there were people still trying to spread light and hope.

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