Category Archives: fiction

Tracy Ewens Writes Relatable Romantic Fiction

Readers who like romance with modern, real life circumstances will want to read Tracy Ewens’ Love Story series. As of this writing, there are eight books in the series. Ewens introduces a character in one book and features him or her in another. She has both men and women as the main characters, exploring reasons why a relationship will or won’t work. Though there are some formulaic aspects in the series as we can realistically assume the two love interests will work through their obstacles to find happiness together, Ewens manages to make each story fresh. One way she accomplishes this feat is by having many of the storylines take place at different locations, such as a farm, restaurant, city, beach, college, football arena, political venue and more. The characters have a variety of jobs too, which means Ewens appears to do extensive amounts of research to get it right. Their occupations range from chef to bartender to politician to actor to photographer to computer programmer to farmer. Ewens also represents people at different stages of life, which allows the reader to find someone to relate to.

I eagerly await Ewens’ next book, as I am sure it will hold my attention while also teach me something!

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A Mother’s Promise

IMG_2154A Mother’s Promise is one of the most difficult, yet well written books, I have read in years. Hepworth has a great talent and accurately captures the essence of a mother / daughter relationship with finesse and compassion. The main character, Alice, is diagnosed with ovarian cancer and has to figure out a way to take care of herself an her 15 year old daughter who suffers from severe social anxiety. Unfortunately, there is virtually no extended family support, so we are introduced to Alice’s primary nurse Kate and a social worker, Sonja, who is also assigned to the case. Though the story centers on Alice’s condition, each person has her own story to tell, and we are fortunate to be introduced to each one’s tale.

As a mom to a teenage daughter, I found it hard to read, because the topic is so difficult to process. Alice’s diagnosis is every mother’s fear and I did not want to consider the ‘what if’ that resonates throughout the book. However, I am so glad I persevered, because it is such a solid piece of fiction. The ending provides resolution and at the same time, keeps the door open for the next stage in the character’s lives. I highly recommend this book to anyone who finds real life books compelling. The story has a few predicable elements, but there are also plenty of unexpected moments, both positive and negative, like real life. I have already told friends about it and will continue to read Hepworth’s novels, as they make me think and help me slow down and appreciate the people I love the most.

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New Mystery Series

Just discovered this series. If you like reading about strong female lead characters who have a habit of unintentionally finding dead bodies, then try to solve the crime, this is your series. It is sort of a mix of Stephanie Plum and Hannah Swensen, to name two other similar female leads (authors Evanovich and Fluke, respectively).

I liked the pace, the who unknown, the side cast, and the twists. Book one is out now, book two will be released in early June 2016.  I liked Swimsuit Body more, but Bones and Roses is good too. I also recommend reading in order, so the side stories make sense and don’t ruin a previous book.

 

 

 

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The Things We Keep

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I found “The Things We Keep” to be an emotional adventure. Months after finishing it, I still think about the main characters and what happened to them, especially Anna. See what you think…

Coping with Alzheimer’s is hard enough with adults over the age of 65. In The Things We Keep, the main character Anna, realizes in her late 30’s that she has a form of the disease, and decides she should live in an assisted care to avoid harming herself or her family. While there she meets Luke, another younger person facing a different form of Alzheimer’s, and the two develop a relationship, much to the surprise and dissatisfaction of her twin who is not affected by the disease. Anna and Luke’s friendship slowly evolves while her capacities deteriorate, adding some unexpected dimension and plot lines to the story.

A separate storyline involves a woman named Eve, who is facing her own obstacles after her husband defrauded people through a Ponzi Scheme. Facing life after privilege, finding a job, a new home, and trying to raise a daughter while coping with the aftermath are all pretty tough. Eve finds work at the assisted living care facility where Anna lives, and eventually, their lives intersect.

The book’s chapters alternate between the two different stories, as well as in the past and present, which gives the reader insight into the main character’s decisions, actions, and behaviors. I liked each plot, though as I was reading each, it was at times hard when a chapter ended, and I had to switch gears for a different character or time period. Emotionally, I felt awful for Anna, Eve, and Eve’s daughter. The losses they faced were not caused by anything they did, yet they had to deal with the fallout. There is a sense of injustice throughout the book, yet it is largely resolved by the end.

I think this book would be very good for book clubs, as well as for someone facing adversity or unexpected challenges. The author does a good job conveying feelings, and the reader leaves satisfied.

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Baby, Not Tonight

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Feeling awful after a nasty breakup of a five year relationship while living in Paris, France, Milla returns to the US to start over. She is a chef and finds work in a kitchen that offers stable hours and salary, if not the glamour of a five-star restaurant. While she figures out how to begin again, both personally and professionally, she is also stuck in the past, harping on why her relationship failed. To help her move forward, her best friend and co-worker Jake, encourages her to meet someone new, to get on the horse, so to speak. And so enters Hunter, a handsome single man with his own pile of baggage. The two begin a relationship based on mutual attraction and half-truths, and when reality hits, it hits Milla hard. With her lack of coping skills, she does not know how to handle her growing feelings toward Hunter or his evasion about significant members of his past.

Tied into the relationship story, are some noteworthy side characters, including the afore mentioned Jake, as well as Hunter’s brother, mother and best friend, Ivy. There are also some characters who are briefly mentioned but not developed, such as Milla’s family, which does create a little hole in the plot. Jake also has his own side story and though interesting, I found it a little distracting. Overall, the main romantic story and how Milla and Hunter figure out their feelings for one another is a solid read. There are good hints for communicating with someone you care about too. If you are looking for a romantic comedy, b/c there are a few laugh out loud moments in the story, with some depth too, then Baby, Not Tonight is worth checking out.

(A copy of the book was provided in exchange for an unbiased review.)

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The Secret Sister

secret sister book cover

This is the first book I read by Brenda Novak, but it will not be the last. Novak presents a complex story of familial relationships gone sour. Maisey is the youngest daughter of a very cold, domineering mother and a more easygoing father. Unfortunately, he passed away when Maisey was just a girl, and her mother did not seem to make any effort to show extra affection towards her or her older brother. As a result, when Maisey is an adult she leaves home, intent on never returning. However, life had other plans and Maisey finds herself returning to the family homestead, beaten down by upsetting circumstances, primarily the death of an infant daughter, a divorce from an unfaithful husband, the inability to do her work, and the unsuccessful suicide attempt by her brother, Keith.

Upon her return, Maisey faces her past and her future with a clarity previously unseen. She begins to mend the relationship with her mother, helps her brother figure out his demons, while rediscovering her motivations and purpose. Along the way, she gets reinvolved with a man, Rafe, she knew more than ten years earlier.

I liked many aspects of this story. There is the mystery of whether or not Maisey and Keith had an older sister, the dynamics of her immediate family’s influence and interaction, and the budding romance with Rafe. The pace is quick, though the plot is slower. The first portion of the book is largely devoted to setting up the different events of the relationships of the main character. As a result, the plot takes a while to move to the title point. However, once Novak introduces this point, it goes very fast, and ends with a great conclusion. I really felt for all the main characters, as each had to overcome different trauma in order to move forward. I have already recommended the book to friends, as I think they will enjoy the story. Another reviewer stated this book is the first in a new series, and I hope that is true. I would enjoy revisiting Maisey, while learning more about other characters on the island where she lives.

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Love, Loss, and Forgiveness

Jackie Bouchhard

Jackie Bouchhard

After suffering two losses (husband and beloved pet), within a week of one another, Jane Bailey realizes she needs to make some life altering decisions. Though experts and family caution against making major decisions within the first year of grief, Jane determines she must do just that, as her current life is stifling, making her miserable. Added to the feelings of loss and confusion, is guilt, as Jane wrestles with mixed emotions about her late husband. Their marriage was failing, yet she had not come to terms with her feelings before her husband become terminally ill.

As Jane reconciles what she needs to do, she slowly begins to heal. Along the way, she reconnects to family and friends, makes a few new friends, and adopts a new dog. She had no intention of acquiring another pet, and certainly not so soon, but this dog finds her way into Jane’s life and heart without much fanfare. Jane quickly learns that she can open her heart again too, that pain and guilt are not emotions one has to carry for a lifetime. One funny element throughout the book is Jane’s stance on people…she really does not Ike meeting new people or even socializing with some she knows. Her interactions with others when she is frustrated are quite humorous.

Aptly titled, Rescue Me, Maybe is a story of redemption and rediscovery. Jane puts her life back together, learns more about herself, and begins to carve out a new future. The ending does not wrap up everything in a tight bow, leaving the possibility of a sequel, though it is not a cliffhanger.

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