Review: To Move the World

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: To Move the World
Author: Regina Sirois
Publisher: Createspace
Release Date: October 2016
Length: 246 pages
Series?: Power of the Matchmaker #10
Genre: Contemporary Romance 

Eve Brannon never had to bother planning out her future. In the Yorkshire dales where life is harder, it is also simpler. Next in line to inherit her family’s farm, she will raise another generation of children and sheep high in the uplands of England. Waiting until next year when she is 19 to marry her father’s handsome hired hand, Alan, is the detail she added herself.

But in 1939 even the most stalwart corners of the world are vibrating with the tremors of change. Eve’s long-anticipated proposal comes on the wings of losing Alan to the Royal Army and at the brink of the farm’s profitable war years the sheep herd is decimated by a mysterious illness. With her steady future suddenly in the clutches of a capricious fate, Eve is introduced to Jonathon Doran, a land manager anxious to prove himself in a crisis, and she discovers that the solid earth beneath her feet is moving after all.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Skinny

Eve is a young woman living on a sheep farm with her father and brother. Eve and the farmhand her father hired plan to marry the following year. With the rumblings of war, everything is topsy-turvy. Her beloved enlists to earn more money for their own farm, and he is sent to fight. Worse still, a strange outbreak among the sheep threatens the livelihood and home of Eve and her family.

In Alan’s absence, she meets a wealthy landowner, Jonathon, who takes it upon himself to assist Eve and her family with the mysterious sheep attack.

The Players

Eve – a young girl responsible for the family farm; she yearns to write

William – Eve’s older brother; he attends university

Alan – the farmhand who works alongside Eve’s father on the farm; he plans to one day have his own farm

Theo Weller – Eve’s best friend;

Marion Doran – the youngest son of a wealthy family nearby; Eve’s girlhood crush

Jonathan Doran – a wealthy landowner and older brother of Marion; he lends aid to the family farm

The Quote

“You say a heart doesn’t move,” she said, “but that would mean it is dead. Love should always move us.”

The Highs and Lows

  • Pearl. The Power of the Matchmaker series is a series of stand-alone books with one common thread throughout. The character of matchmaker Pearl is the connection between all the books, but in this installment Pearl hardly appears at all. More than halfway through the book Pearl still had not surfaced, and when she did, it was quite minimal. I was disappointed with that and hoping Pearl made a  grand entry in this book, but that wasn’t the case.
  • Writing. I couldn’t put this story down! The imagery and language were poetic and detailed. I felt like I was there with Eve, like an invisible soul living alongside Eve and her life.
  • Eve. She was such an interesting character. Eve brought such expression to life with her typewriter. That was her outlet, the one thing on the farm that was hers. Eve is a bit of a mix. She is loyal and devoted to the family farm, but at the same time she regrets the lack of the opportunity to go to college like her brother. While she is grounded to the farm and level-headed, she also has a dreamy side.
  • Journal Entries. Since Eve has this typewriter and she records her daily life, the story is told through journal entries. At first this confused me but after the first two chapters I got used to it.
  • The Engagement. Alan is a wonderful, loyal, sweet but shy young man. He works as hard as Eve’s father on a farm that isn’t his, but he has hopes and dreams for his future – and Eve’s. It was a path Eve thought she wanted, and she is handling all these new emotions and feelings. When Jonathan shows up, it is obvious to everyone but Eve where her path should go – and who should walk it alongside her.
  • The Niggling Feeling. While it was obvious how Eve reacted to Jonathan from the start, I didn’t find that she really expressed any true emotion or feeling for him (or Alan for that matter). It was like she was swept up and just went along with things. The ambiguous ending also didn’t really satisfy me after this long-laid romance on Jonathan’s part.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Regina Sirois believes in intelligent books that challenge us to reach higher and be better. She believes in the powerful years of adolescence and loves to capture the raw moments when young adults begin to solidify into the people they were meant to be. She lives in Kansas with her high school sweetheart (also known as her husband), her two daughters, and their nearly hairless cat. She continues to write stories that won’t leave her alone.

Find the author: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: King of the Friend Zone

ABOUT THE BOOK

31752357Title: King of the Friend Zone
Author: Sheralyn Pratt
Publisher: Wicked Sassy
Release Date: August 2016
Length: 351 pages
Series?: Power of the Matchmaker #9
Genre: Contemporary Romance 

Esme Taylor has an amazing fiancé, a lifelong best friend, and a problem. The problem stems from the fact that her best friend is named Hunter and, well. . .he’s kind of (totally) hot. It’s hate at first sight when her fiancé, Jon, and Hunter meet. Jon’s convinced that Hunter is in love with Esme, and that Hunter must be out of the picture if their upcoming marriage is to succeed.

Esme thinks Jon is paranoid.

The truth is, Jon’s not that far off. Hunter is in love with his best friend and always has been. What Jon has wrong, however, is that Hunter never had any plans of ruining Esme’s happily ever after. Hunter wants what’s best for Esme, even if that’s not him.

When Jon pushes hard to end Esme and Hunter’s friendship, opposition comes from the most unlikely of places. It’s an eccentric lady with a cookie cart who suggests a different solution to Esme’s problem: Hunter and Esme should give each other a chance.

They’ve both thought of the possibility over the years—of course they have. But with a ring already on Esme’s finger and a heap of hurt feelings and broken trust in the mix, there hasn’t been a worse time to explore the depths of their feelings for each other.

Both Esme and Hunter think it’s time to move on and leave childhood crushes in the past. The question is: Can one woman and the taste of one cookie change their minds?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Skinny

Hunter and Esme have grown up their whole lives with one another. Their mothers were best friends, so naturally they became best friends. Esme keeps up with all of the calls for service Hunter is dispatched to, competes with him for steps on her FitBit, and constantly keeps up by texts. They are integral parts of each other’s lives, which they quickly learn the hard way after being ripped apart by jealousy – Esme’s jealous fiancé, that is. Jon is a straight up douche that goes for the jugular and single-handedly cuts all communication between the lifelong best friends and manipulates Esme into making decisions she later regrets.

While Esme is figuring it out with Jon, Hunter is busy working with a street kid named Kenny. Shauna, his social worker, has brought several kids Hunter’s way before…usually the end of the line.

The Players

Hunter – a hot fireman

Esme – a crisis manager

Daryl – Hunter’s fireman coworker

Grace – Esme’s friend; she helped Grace out in a bad situation before

Luke – Hunter’s best friend; he flips houses

Kenny – a kid in the system; assigned to work with Hunter at his boxing gym

Shauna – Kenny’s social worker; in an abusive relationship

The Quote

He kept going, ignoring his phone when it buzzed yet again. But Andy didn’t. “Someone named, uh, NOT TODAY SATAN is blowing up your phone, Hunter.”

“Leave it,” Hunter said, still going strong.

“Another psycho?” Andy guessed, clearly trying to distract him.

“Basically,” Hunter said, earning an arched look from Daryl in his peripheral vision.

The Highs and Lows

  • Real. What I loved most about this story was so real. Hunter’s reactions and inner dialogue were so on point. He thought – and sometimes said – what everyone else was thinking. Sometimes it wasn’t the best time or place, but he was honest with himself. And with others, even when they were in denial. *cough* Esme *cough*
  • Jon the Jackass. Seriously, the guy had a major problem. He was the best worst guy ever. Right from the start he immediately hones in on Hunter and creates problems. He is very manipulative and selfish. I was hoping Esme would catch on, but the girl was blind. I thought he was going to slip up in front of other people, but he was always able to keep his cool. A master manipulator, knowing when to turn it on and turn it off.
  • Esme’s Stalking. Seriously, NOT TODAY SATAN. Esme asked for certain things from Hunter – demanded them – and then went against everything she asked him for. I could not wrap my brain around that, even as a woman. I tried feeling some sympathy for her, but I couldn’t. She was a character I didn’t really like. She abandoned all of her character and integrity and beliefs.
  • Shauna’s Story. While Shauna knows Hunter on a professional level due to her work, he and his firemen friend Daryl do their best to help her out in a sticky situation. She works with Kenny, a young rough and tough kid who doesn’t believe in Hunter’s methods. The change in Kenny is profound, and he and Hunter (and Esme) play an intregal part in Shauna’s story.
  • The Fun. I love how fun Hunter is. He is such a jokester. The conversation he has with Daryl and his girlfriend about if they were a TV show was quite humorous. As was the engagement party.
  • The Cookie. Miss Pearl’s cookie cart in the park was genius. No two cookies every taste the same, and she has incredible wisdom she imparts to Hunter and Esme.

The Take-Away

This was a fun read! I really like reading from Hunter’s perspective. Esme rubbed me after a while, but she still had a story to offer.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sheralyn was born at an early age, with 10 fingers and 10 toes. She is proud to report that she currently retains all 20 digits. Described by one reviewer as “the bomb dot com” (url already claimed… bummer), Sheralyn has been a karate instructor, musical theater performer, a beach bum, freelance writer, nomadic traveler, and, yes, a private investigator. At the moment she enjoys working with and training her dog to give the poor thing breaks from sitting and Sheralyn’s feet with the unbearable task of watching someone write a book.

Sheralyn currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, although as people who know her can attest to, that is subject to change at any time 😉

Find the author: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Chasing Fireflies

ABOUT THE BOOK

30136490Title: Chasing Fireflies
Author: Taylor Dean
Publisher: Taylor Dean Books
Release Date: July 2016
Length: 311 pages
Series?: Power of the Matchmaker #7
Genre: Contemporary Romance

My sisters think I’m crazy.

But, I’ve never forgotten the mysterious woman from my childhood who told me Paul is the name of my one true love.
She told me to search far and wide for him.
I haven’t stopped looking ever since.

When I stumble across an article about a successful American entrepreneur named Paul who lives and works in China, I’m intrigued. When the opportunity to teach English in China presents itself on the same day, I know it’s not a coincidence.

It’s destiny.

My sisters say I’m chasing a dream.

Just like the fireflies we tried to catch on the warm summer evenings of our youth, the dream seems beyond my grasp. Will my quest for the elusive Paul always be just short of fulfillment?

My sisters tell me it’s a fool’s errand.

Until I remind them of the day we saw the Red Bird.
The memory silences them.
The Red Bird Incident remains inarguable—and proves my search for Paul is not a silly fantasy.

I will find Paul . . . I will.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

 

my review

The Skinny

Savannah met Miss Pearl, the matchmaker, when she was 11. Miss Pearl told her three important things. The first two have come true, and now Savannah must fulfill the last thing: find Paul. Not just any one specific Paul, but the Paul that his her soulmate. How in the world does she do this? She ignores anyone (romantically) without the name Paul. After flipping through her university’s alumni magazine, she discovers Paul, a UT alumni businessman in China. So she signs up for a program teaching English in China in the same city as Paul.

The Players

Savannah – an extreme introvert on a mission

Dakota – Savannah’s read-headed roommate who is incredible intuitive

Hunter – a young, blond, goofy kid more interested in the food and the fun

Lori and _____ – the married couple leading the English teaching expedition

Julian – an American chef at Burger, Burger; former teacher in the same program at

Paul – UT graduate and businessman in China

The Quote

The Highs and Lows

  • Pearl and the Prophecies. The way Pearl showed up in this installment in the series was different than all the others. Savannah meets Pearl when she is 11 years old. Pearl is the next-door neighbor of one of Savannah’s friends, and when the two meet Pearl tells her three important events about her future. When these prophecies begin to be fulfilled, like the tragic news and The Red Bird incident, Savannah holds steadfast to Pearl’s last item: she will search far and wide for Paul.
  • Savannah. She is an introvert to the max, like me, so it was very easy to understand her character and can relate very much. It is something that is hard to explain to other people. Savannah keeps to herself and goes through life wearing an invisible cloak that lets her blend into the background and be forgotten or overlooked in social situations.

The truth of the matter is I like being invisible.

Social situations sometimes exhaust me. Not that I don’t enjoy them. I do. Absolutely. But afterwards I need space, time to regroup and recover from the effort.For some reason, social situations take a lot out of me and I can only handle them in small doses. But it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them or need them.

I don’t enjoy situations where I feel at a loss for words. Every once in a while, I find myself searching for words and not finding them. That’s when things get awkward.

I don’t enjoy being the center of attention. I like to observe and listen, it’s the niche where I feel most comfortable.

I hate the disconnect between my brain and my tongue. It’s an innate part of me that I can’t seem to fight, no matter how hard I try. The words stick in my throat.

  • Julian. He is an incredible individual, and I was impressed with his business skills to co-own Burger, Burger in China with Mr. Tang. He caters more to the American tourists, which the book made clear is where the group eats daily, preferring American fare over Chinese. The other thing that got me was his instant attachment to Savannah, and his brazen way of letting her know and calling attention to that fact as much as possible. He is also very obvious in his dislike for the group leader, Lori and her husband, and another girl in the group who hangs on his every word and is very fake. Overall, he’s a fun guy and I liked that in his character. Savannah did, too. Only problem is his name isn’t Paul. But all the things you’d want in a partner are there in Julian. Who cares if his name isn’t Paul?
  • Pina Coladas. Julian plays on this song quite a bit throughout the novel, and it is kind of like their “thing” he and Savannah share. They make light of others in the group only having half a brain. Comments about yoga and the taboo making love at midnight comes up.
  • Hiding Savannah’s Past. Since the first two chapters, “The Red Bird Incident” is referred to several times, but never explained in any kind of way except that it was the second item Miss Pearl foretold Savannah about. It drove me crazy! Savannah and all of her sisters gabbed on and on about these things, and it was like being left on the outside looking in – and not in a good way. It really made me want to stop reading entirely. I didn’t ever foresee being told what the hell was going on. There would be chapters that would flash back and the entire chapter would be about Savannah’s past. It would build up and build up and then just dropped. The book even started in this way. I was left wondering who the hell Paul was and why her sisters didn’t trash him or build him up as an individual. The reason was he didn’t exist – he, as a specific person. Paul is just any man named Paul, and Savannah set her sights on the UT alum in China.
  • Fundamental Drawbacks. As I read, I had some things I couldn’t get past some things at the end. Some of Savannah’s commentary about her relationship or responses to Julian.  It was weird. I did feel that Savannah and Julian had some sort of connection, but there were some things that didn’t mesh for me as a reader. For these reasons, I was disappointed in this installment in the series. Because of these things I felt it did not live up to the basic principles of romance and true – TRULY – true love. It was subpar and I feel like the last few chapters reinforced all the wrong things I think young girls and women today fall victim to in relationships.

 

The Take-Away

I didn’t really like this one. Developmentally a lot of things could have been different. I also don’t really see the swoony romance here. I see a connection that is then up in the air as both Savannah and Julian have different thoughts and make up their minds about things.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

6425797Taylor Dean lives in Texas and is the mother of four grown children. Upon finding herself with an empty nest, she began to write the stories that were always wandering around in her head, quickly finding she had a passion for writing, specifically romance. Whether it’s paranormal, contemporary, or suspense-you’ll find all sub-genres of CLEAN Romance in her line-up.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Somebody’s Baby

ABOUT THE BOOK

29875915Title: Somebody’s Baby
Author: Donna Alward
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: April 2017
Length: 304 pages
Series?: Darling, VT #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance 

Veterinarian Rory Gallagher chose a different path from his brothers, both of whom became first responders in the lovely little town of Darling, Vermont. Rory’s always had an affinity for animals and the ladies. Known for his impressive track record in breaking hearts, Rory never meant to hurt anyone; he s just never been in a hurry to settle down. It’s not as if he needs to pay a visit to the town s famed Kissing Bridge to magically find love. He’ll know The One when he sees her. . .right?

Oaklee Ferguson is the kid sister of Rory’s best friend and, even now that she’s all grown up, remains immune to the pet-doctor’s charms. When she shows up at Rory’s clinic late one night devastated after hitting a stray dog with her car, Rory’s so-called bedroom eyes are the last thing on her mind. Still, his care and kindness toward the dog, and his concern for her feelings, catches Oaklee by surprise. . .and soon the two (and rescued dog makes three!) begin to share a deep connection that neither could have ever imagined. Could it be that love has been waiting for them by the bridge all along?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

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my review

The Skinny

Oaklee returns to her hometown of Darling to join the city council in promoting tourism. She knocked it out the the park re-creating the town’s iconic photo of Aiden Gallagher kissing Laurel Stone on the Kissing Bridge when they were just five years old, re-branding the city’s entire marketing campaign. Despite the fast-paced life she leads, and the jillions of people she interacts with on a daily basis, whether in person or online through Twitter, Oaklee is hiding her loneliness from everyone, even herself.

Which is exactly what she is doing one night when she hits a dog. Frantically, she gets it in her car and takes it to the vet clinic, where Rory Gallagher works and lives. While Oaklee feels massive guilt, she is stuck footing the larger than expected bill for the dog with a broken leg, named Buster by the clinic. Then Rory up and pushes her into fostering the thing. She’s never had a dog in her life!

Just like with his brother and his wife, Rory has a history with Oaklee. Cam, Oaklee’s now-famous hockey star older brother, was Rory’s best friend growing up. After Cam went all famous, Rory was tasked with looking out for Oaklee until she went off to college.

Now they are both back home, both working in their small town, and both trying to make a go at adult life. There’s just one problem: they are both keeping the truth – their truths – a secret from every single person they know.

The Players

Oaklee – 23 year old city council socialite and younger sister of a famous hockey player

Rory – 26 year old vet at the local clinic; a serial first-date-is-the-last-date kind of guy

Hannah – Rory’s sister who gets all nosy up in Rory’s personal business; Oaklee’s friend

Buster – the dog Oaklee hits and then Rory convinces her to foster

The Quote

So close now…her eyes drifted closed, waiting for that first touch of his mouth on hers.

Instead his lips touched her forehead. She froze in place, both from surprise and dismay. A kiss on the forehead was what you gave a sister or a friend. She’d been moving in and he’d just friend zoned her big-time.

The Highs and Lows

  • Animals. Let’s be real, here. Animals are always the way to win over the hearts of readers, and Rory Gallagher has them in spades. Buster is an adorable dog, and he fills the holes in Oaklee’s life. When reading about how he wanted to be in bed with her the first night after fostering him, it reminded me so much of my own dog, Baby, whom has slept with me since she came home. I could see the same way Baby does when she wants to crawl in bed in Buster, and it brought a smile to my face.
  • Emotional Baggage. Both Rory and Oaklee carried such emotional baggage. I could understand both of their pasts and the pain and fear it puts you in to try again at love, but neither of them ever told anyone what happened. NO ONE. That seemed so unrealistic to me. NEITHER of them told ANYONE. That is very uncharacteristic of human nature. They are both choosing to hide behind their pasts, despite their feelings for one another.
  • Oaklee’s Loneliness. Due to Oaklee’s baggage, she doesn’t allow anyone in. That’s why she has a messy car and an apartment that sets off Rory’s OCD like nobody’s business. It’s why Rory pretty much offs Buster onto Oaklee, so she wouldn’t be lonely. He sees it as just an outsider and wants her to have some companionship, but Oaklee has to come to terms with it herself: she keeps her apartment in this state so it looks lived in, so she doesn’t feel lonely. She’s also flat broke and barely making it, something that shocks Rory considering her brother is a rich and famous hockey player, but Oaklee refuses to ask for a hand out or help. She has to get creative with Buster’s vet bill, and offers to redesign the vet clinic’s website and do some other social media packaging to help pay for the unexpected financial cost.
  • Twitter. The use of Twitter in this installment is Oaklee’s job. Her life. But I wasn’t kosher with her using it to publicly ask Rory out. Then the pressure and maelstrom that followed as all the local businesses and locals themselves began to weigh in and give their opinions. In a world where we have to teach our students and children digital citizenship and appropriate social media usage in a world drowning in oversharing, I though this was a perfect example of what not to do. There were some things that came back to both characters, questioning the already unsteady ground they were on with each other. In an about-face, later in the book Rory also uses Twitter to send out an announcement to Oaklee.
  • Lies and Deception. Sometimes a white lie is necessary, like telling your husband the dog knocked over the expensive vase when your 8 year old really did it playing football in the house. I get that – protecting others. I also get that at times in our lives we have to be self-serving and protect ourselves. I get it. I was there once a bunch. But what kept rubbing me a little quite a bit the wrong way was that neither Rory nor Oaklee had ever told anyone anything, as I mentioned above. But it wasn’t just that. Despite the budding relationship between Oaklee and Rory, neither one of them is honest. They both lie to each other. They are not all-in and willing to be honest with themselves or each other. Oaklee basically had to beg Rory for a date, and at the end she finally revealed her hidden truth and gave him an out to share his. And then he ignored her for two weeks. That bothered me.
  • The Title. For the longest time I could not understand why the book was titled Somebody’s Baby. I still kind of don’t. At the end of the book, Rory surprises Oaklee with an unexpected gift, and that is the “somebody’s baby” part…but I didn’t think that warranted being the title.

The Take-Away

I really thought for the longest that Rory was just going to walk away and leave Oaklee hanging. Ignore her and put her off and avoid her as much as he could, given the small town and the nature of Oaklee’s job to make it her business to support his business and others around town. There was something not quite there for me in this installment in the series. I’m not sure if this is the last book in the series or not, but there are still three more Gallagher children who are single! I hope Hannah is the focus of the next book.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

marti-corn-photography-donna-alward-h-r-1600While bestselling author Donna Alward was busy studying Austen, Eliot and Shakespeare, she was also losing herself in the breathtaking stories created by romance novelists like LaVyrle Spencer, Judith McNaught, and Nora Roberts. Several years after completing her degree she decided to write a romance of her own and it was true love! Five years and ten manuscripts later she sold her first book and launched a new career. While her heartwarming stories of love, hope, and homecoming have been translated into several languages, hit bestseller lists and won awards, her very favorite thing is when she hears from happy readers!

Donna lives on Canada’s east coast with her family which includes a husband, a couple of kids, a senior dog and two crazy cats. When she’s not writing she enjoys reading (of course!), knitting, gardening, cooking…and is a Masterpiece Theater addict.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Review: Someone to Love

ABOUT THE BOOK


29875888-1Title:
 Someone to Love
Author: Donna Alward
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: March 2017
Length: 320 pages
Series?: Darling, VT #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance 

Some wishes do come true…

Ethan Gallagher is a firefighter in Darling, Vermont, who followed tradition and pledged his love on the Kissing Bridge to ensure lifelong happiness. A few years later, he s a widower with two rambunctious boys who no longer believes in magic. But even he has to admit that free-spirited Willow Dunaway fills him with wonder and an attraction he cannot deny.

Willow s come back to Darling a different girl than the one who left after high school. Overcoming her past and owning her own business has made her into a strong, independent woman. Single dad Ethan appeals to her in a way she didn t expect, even though settling down is the last thing on her mind. But after fire destroys the local food bank, the town rallies, and a fling between Ethan and Willow leads to unintended consequences. Can they find a way out of their heartbreak to make a home in each other s hearts?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

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my review

The Skinny

Darling, Vermont is known for their famous Kissing Bridge. Local legend says that a kiss on the bridge brings everlasting love.

Ethan Gallagher doesn’t think so. He kissed his bride on the Kissing Bridge and she died, leaving him to raise two young boys on his own. The loss is obvious, and the entire family pitches in to care for the boys due to Ethan’s firefighting schedule. He loves his boys, but not much else.

When his boys meet Willow by accident. Ethan is as surly to Willow as the Beast, and again when Ethan’s sister invites her to dinner with the Gallagher family. Ethan’s attitude and words cut like a knife, despite the cheerful smile and kind responses Willow tries to give. Willow left Darling and came back a very different person. She has had to work hard each and every day to love herself. She is putting her happiness into her business and being a good community member. When Ethan’s sister begs Willow to watch Ethan’s boys for a few hours, Willow is more than happy to accommodate…only to land in hot water with Ethan!

 

The Players

Willow – owner of The Purple Pig; does yoga and eats crazy healthy; practices mindful self-care

Ethan – a firefighter and recent widow; struggles to raise his two little boys

Hannah – runs the local realty office near The Purple Pig; Ethan’s sister and Willow’s close friend

Connor and Ronan – Ethan’s sons; Ronan remembers everything

 

The Quote

“I didn’t really peg you as the tattoo type,” he said, nodding at her arm.

Her stomach twisted into a knot. Her ink was rather personal, thought its meaning was well known. “I only have the one,” she remarked, keeping her voice light. “Though I’ve thought about getting another.”

“A semicolon in a flower. That seems kind of a weird choice, don’t you think?” He gave a little chuckle. “Did you study English or something?”

He didn’t know. She wasn’t sure why she was surprised. Not everyone understood the meaning behind the semicolon, she supposed. Did she want to explain? And if she did, did she want it to be here, sitting at her business, with the chatter of other customers around?

The Highs and Lows

Warning: This post contains heavy subject matter not for the faint of heart.
  • The Subject Matter. There are two heavy subjects that come up in the book. The first is in relation to the quote I picked out for the book to share above. A semicolon is a very well-known mark, and has now become a stamp forever as a reminder and as hope for many people who battle depression or other mental health issues. If you want to find out more about what the semicolon means, there is an entire project dedicated to it. I encourage you to read about it here. The second heavy subject revolves around a woman’s right to choose for herself and her body, which is somehow a controversial topic in what is supposed to be such a progressive time.
  • Willow. She has suffered quite a bit. She is not the girl she left behind, and every day she focuses on being happy and harmonious. She happily is the face of healthy eating in Darling, and she takes care of her people. She goes out of her way to be courteous and nice to others, because she knows what it is like to live a lie to the outside world. Willow is a very flawed character, with a background of darkness. Now in Darling, she is a ray of sunshine to many, but Willow’s past keeps her grounded and keeps her going. As a result, she tries to be as open and honest as possible.
  • Ethan. He is a surly old bear! I could understand his frustration with the universe, but he chose to take it out on Willow in about 84758475 ways. It is difficult to be in a hard situation and be faced with someone who has everything you want: happiness, real and pure and true. The character growth he experienced from purposefully making fun of Willow’s hard work to practice self-love and care to wanting to get to know her, seeing how he sons come to like and enjoy Willow slowly brings Ethan out of his shell. However, Ethan is not one to mince his words…but he also lacks tact and the forethought to think before he speaks, which drives a wedge between Willow and him. I also like this realization from Ethan:

He blinked back tears, wondering at the odd sensation of grieving for his actual grief. Because the absence of heartbreak had to mean he was moving on. It was a sad, complicated feeling.

  • Willow’s Choice. Willow and Ethan slowly grow close to one another, neither wanting to admit what they have. But life takes its natural course, and all of the reason behind Willow’s semicolon tattoo forces her to make a different choice at this point in her life – not the choice she made before. Not the choice Ethan wants her to make. Willow chooses not to allow someone else to force her into making a choice she does not want, so she chooses her own path. When an innocent bicycle collision happens in front of her store, it propels Willow into an entire situation she and Ethan are not prepared to handle. On the flip side, as Ethan points out to Willow, she has also robbed him of his right to choice in the matter. It is a fine and delicate line, and in the end, Willow made the best decision for herself. She kept Ethan in mind, but also gave him the choice to walk away.
  • The Ending. The ending wasn’t as satisfying as I was hoping it the last little hill of build-up lead me to believe in. It was alright, but I was building up higher hopes in my mind, I suppose. Willow is such a strong, inspirational character that I wanted the world for her.

The Take-Away

This book brought a lot of personal stuff to the plate that most romances don’t. It explored two topics I still consider taboo in our country, and they were both approached with beauty and grace, just like Willow. I think both of these issues – and the outcomes – are very representative and speak volumes to women in our country today.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

marti-corn-photography-donna-alward-h-r-1600While bestselling author Donna Alward was busy studying Austen, Eliot and Shakespeare, she was also losing herself in the breathtaking stories created by romance novelists like LaVyrle Spencer, Judith McNaught, and Nora Roberts. Several years after completing her degree she decided to write a romance of her own and it was true love! Five years and ten manuscripts later she sold her first book and launched a new career. While her heartwarming stories of love, hope, and homecoming have been translated into several languages, hit bestseller lists and won awards, her very favorite thing is when she hears from happy readers!

Donna lives on Canada’s east coast with her family which includes a husband, a couple of kids, a senior dog and two crazy cats. When she’s not writing she enjoys reading (of course!), knitting, gardening, cooking…and is a Masterpiece Theater addict.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Review + Giveaway: Somebody Like You

ABOUT THE BOOK

29875915Title: Somebody Like You
Author: Donna Alward
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: February 2017
Length: 320 pages
Series?: Darling, VT #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance 

A kiss to last a lifetime

Aiden Gallagher was only five years old when he appeared in a photograph on the Kissing Bridge. The town of Darling, Vermont, has used Aiden’s image on the famed bridge—local legend has it that a kiss there results in everlasting love—as part of its tourism campaign. Now, twenty years later, Aiden is asked to recreate the moment with the woman he once kissed: Laurel Stone.

Recently divorced, there’s nothing Laurel wants less than to pretend happily-ever-after with Aiden. As teenagers, their romance was no fairy tale—and Laurel has never quite forgiven Aiden for breaking her heart. But now that she is back in her hometown, and keeps bumping into police officer Aiden, Laurel can’t deny that there’s still a strong flicker between her and her old flame. Could it be that the Kissing Bridge is working its magic on Laurel and Aiden—and that all true love ever needed was a second chance?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

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EXCERPT

By the time they were through, it was nine o’clock and time to open. Being a Saturday, business was brisk. Her dad dropped off the supplies and offered to stay to help cover the tagging, but with the heavy shopping traffic, Laurel decided to wait until things died down. For now the tarps covered the tags, and she’d focus on her customers. Otherwise her anger would get the best of her and that was bad for business. By six p.m., things had slowed considerably.

Laurel had been going flat out for ten hours, stopping for only fifteen minutes to run to The Purple Pig for a sandwich. Her stomach growled, her feet hurt, there was dirt beneath her nails and she really, really wanted a shower and a glass of wine—in that order. Laurel had just dragged out the hose to water the fruit trees when a half- ton truck drove into the lot and parked in an empty space.

The driver hopped out, and her heart slammed against her ribs as she immediately realized how she must look. Dirty jeans, mannish golf shirt that did nothing for her figure,

scrubby ponytail through a Ladybug Garden Center ball cap, and prob ably smudges of dirt on her face and arms. Not that she was trying to look nice for Aiden or anything, but it was him getting out of the truck, looking sexy as hell in faded jeans and a T- shirt that stretched across

his chest and shoulders.

She could pretend she hadn’t seen him. Resolutely she turned on the hose and started watering the apple trees.

“Hey, Laurel,” he called out, and that erased any hope of avoiding him.

She turned off the hose and faced him. “Aiden. What brings you by? Looking for a shrub or tree or something?”

Keep it businesslike, she reminded herself. The last thing she needed was for him to know that he had the ability to fluster her.

“I heard about what happened.”

Of course he had.

“Don’t even. I’m still pissed.”

“I know it’s not what you needed. Did Crystal tell you that you weren’t the only one hit?”

Crystal must be the offi cer from this morning. “She did.”

“Well, that must make you feel better.”

She stared at him. “Better? Seriously? Since I opened a month ago, I’ve had to have the driveway re- graded, I’ve had to replace shrubs that were stolen from out front, deal

with a break-in and vandalism, and now tagging. Trust me, Aiden, the only thing that would feel better is if you actually did your job and found out who was doing this.”

She turned the hose back on.

He waited. He waited a long time. Several seconds, maybe thirty. Which was really not that long at all but definitely felt that way. She was watering the third tree when he sighed. “ You’re upset.”

“No shit, Sherlock.”

He met her gaze, and his eyes were soft, even though she’d basically just accused him of not doing his job. The understanding she saw there made her stomach churn. She didn’t want to lash out, but that was what she did when she was hurt. Angry.

Stopping by was kind and thoughtful. She kept trying to make him out to be a bad guy, and he kept being nice. It definitely made it difficult for her to hate him. Particularly since her biochemistry betrayed her at every turn. Even now, when she was utterly preoccupied with the day’s events, she seemed to notice everything. His hair, his eyes, the breadth of his chest, the armband tattoo that looked like some sort of Celtic braid, peeking just below the hem of his T- shirt sleeve. The shape of his lips . . .

He muttered something that was as creative a curse as she’d ever heard, and sounded suspiciously Irish. She couldn’t help but laugh, and tried to clamp her lips shut again. But not before he saw and heard, and his eyes took on an impish gleam.

“ You’re not fine. You’re tired and upset and rightfully so. You’re also just as stubborn as you always were.” He put his hands on his hips. “I take it you’re not adverse to help, just help from me in particular.”

Her face heated. Dammit.

“Maybe this could be my penance,” he suggested, giving her a quick grin. And she wished she could take him seriously, but he always seemed to be teasing. It was one of the things she’d really liked about him and hated at the same time. Particularly now, when she wanted to be, if not mad, completely unaffected. And she wasn’t. He was trying to cajole her out of her mood and it was working.

“It’s Saturday night. Don’t you have a hot date or something?” She turned on the hose again. Focused on the large plastic pot holding a cherry tree.

“Nope. Free as a bird.”

Dammit again.

“Come on, Laurel. Peace offering. Manual labor for you to stop hating me.”

She glanced over at him. “Why do you care so much?”

He was quiet for a moment, and to her surprise the teasing expression left his face. After a while he answered, his voice a little lower. “I don’t know why I care what people think so much. I always have. I don’t like anyone to be mad at me. Maybe it has something with being one of the younger siblings in the family. I don’t know. I just know that I don’t like it that you’re still so angry.” His intense blue gaze locked with hers. “It’s starting to become a personal mission to win you over. To atone for past sins.”

“Good luck,” she said dryly, more touched than she wanted to admit.

His boyish grin was back. “Come on, Laurel. You know you can’t hold out forever. You think I’m hot.” He had the audacity to wink at her.

She rolled her eyes.

“You do. You have a thing for gingers. And you have to admit, I grew up kinda good.” His hands were still on his hips and he tensed his muscles so that his shoulders and chest tightened beneath the thin T- shirt.

“I think you’re a bit taken with yourself, to be honest,” she replied. And tried not to smile. She didn’t want to be charmed, but he was incorrigible.

“Laurel.”

Damn, his voice was all silky- smooth now. “Yes, Mr. Narcissist?”

“You know damn well you want to hate me and you can’t. Besides, I saw your face just now. Maybe if I took off my shirt . . .”

“Would you like to go somewhere private to be with yourself?” she asked, biting the inside of her lip. She shouldn’t be enjoying this so much. And she wouldn’t be, if she thought he was serious. But he was teasing her.

Like he used to do when they were friends. And today . . . she swallowed against a ball of emotion. Today she needed a friend, and all she’d had were well- meaning customers.

She looked over at him. “Jeez, Aiden. You’re looking a little flushed. I think you could stand to cool off.” And before he could reply, she flicked her wrist and aimed the spray of the hose right at the center of his chest.

The abrupt shock on his face was gratifi cation enough, but then he grinned and reached to take away the hose. She danced away, still spraying him, admiring how the shirt now clung to his skin and the little droplets lit up his face and hair. A laugh bubbled up through her chest and out her mouth as she darted around the trees, dragging the hose with her. But there were too many pots and not enough room to maneuver and within seconds he caught her, wrapped one strong arm around her and wrenched the hose away with the other, spraying her in the process.

Cold water dripped from her nose, down her neck, over her bare arms. Aiden held her close against his body, close enough she could feel the hardness of his muscles, and thrilled at it. Their breaths came fast, their chests rising and falling with both laughter and the exertion of the struggle over the hose. But it was the way he was looking down at her right now that made her feel as if the lack of air was strangling her lungs. All it would take was the tiniest move and he’d be kissing her. Her gaze dropped to his lips— he’d always had fine lips— and she swallowed, nervous and scared at her reaction and turned on as hell.

She looked up, which was a mistake. Because he was staring at her lips. And his arm tightened just a little bit at the hollow of her back. Oh God . . .

A car horn honked and Laurel jumped back. He let her go, but the gravity of the moment remained.

Copyright © 2017 by Donna Alward and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks.

my review

The Skinny

Darling, Vermont is known for their famous Kissing Bridge. Local legend says that a kiss on the bridge brings everlasting love, and it is perpetuated by the city and local businesses for tourism. Despite that, Darling is a fairly small town…with the traditional small town mindset.

Aiden Gallagher and Laurel Stone were photographed on the Kissing Bridge when they were five years old, dressed for a relative’s wedding. Ten years later, they date in high school…until word gets around to Laurel about a bet Aiden made in the locker room. Their break-up scene is still whispered about to this day, and Laurel still carries this anger and almost hatred for him. Now that she is back home and rebuilding her new life – alone – there is now avoiding him. Especially after her business is robbed and near destroyed…twice.

And now the entire town wants the two of them to pose and model for an updated Kissing Bridge photo for their rebranding. 

The Players

Laurel Stone – a recent divorcé who has moved back home and revitalized the town’s garden center

Willow – Laurel’s longtime friend from high school; she owns a local restaurant

Aiden Gallagher – local police officer whom Laurel dated briefly in high school

George – a homeless man that Aiden tries to befriend; Laurel hires him at the garden center

The Quote

A date with Laurel Stone. Damn. They’d gone on a date before that had ended with him perilously close to losing his head and his virginity.

The Highs and Lows

  • The Setting. The setting in Darling, Vermont is adorable. First of all, the name. Darling! It sounds like a great place to live, a charming place. A place you would want to live. Not only that, it is famous for this Kissing Bridge legend. And of course, in an innocent act by two children at a wedding captured and capitalized on, the love interests in the book are famously photographed on said bridge. Darling is a small town, which makes sense that it thrives on its tourism campaigns.
  • Laurel and Aiden’s History. The Kissing Bridge when they were five. The talk of the town when they were sixteen. The very personal and bone deep feelings – on both sides of the spectrum. For a long time, Laurel continued to bring up and harp on their history, and I thought the ship was sinking fast.
  • Laurel’s Inability to Trust. She has been with two men in her life: Aiden and her ex-husband. And I undersand her fears about mistrust and lies and deception. The weird headspace a woman can get it after a break-up was so relatable, but I was also so angsty for her to move on. Everyone could see the potential but her.
  • Laurel’s Marriage. Everybody in town is whispering about it. One of Aiden’s siblings even openly comments on it – and doesn’t realize Laurel is standing there. The reason for her divorce is shocking, and it follows her around town like a dark cloud.
  • The Lesson About George. George is a homeless man that hangs around Darling and takes off every once in a while. Aiden tries to befriend him, but it is hard to put aside the fact that he is a cop. Laurel has much more success with George and I was so proud of her for doing what she does for George, and for not letting anyone change her mind or sway her belief in George. It was a beautiful moment of compassion.
  • Pacing. The pacing of the book was perfect. For a while I started to get angsty and trying to hurry Laurel along. There was moment I thought she took a step back, and so did she.
  • Willow. She is a phenomenal friend, but she’s hiding something. And I want to know what it is.

The Take-Away

This book just made me feel good. Feel good about people and their hearts and life in general.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Buy it! It is such a good read with some heartfelt moments – especially those expressed for George, which warmed my heart.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

marti-corn-photography-donna-alward-h-r-1600While bestselling author Donna Alward was busy studying Austen, Eliot and Shakespeare, she was also losing herself in the breathtaking stories created by romance novelists like LaVyrle Spencer, Judith McNaught, and Nora Roberts. Several years after completing her degree she decided to write a romance of her own and it was true love! Five years and ten manuscripts later she sold her first book and launched a new career. While her heartwarming stories of love, hope, and homecoming have been translated into several languages, hit bestseller lists and won awards, her very favorite thing is when she hears from happy readers!

Donna lives on Canada’s east coast with her family which includes a husband, a couple of kids, a senior dog and two crazy cats. When she’s not writing she enjoys reading (of course!), knitting, gardening, cooking…and is a Masterpiece Theater addict.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

giveaway

One lucky U.S. winner will receive a paperback copy of SOMEBODY LIKE YOU from St. Martin’s!

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Review + Giveaway: Staying for Good

ABOUT THE BOOK

29917857Title: Staying for Good
Author: Catherine Bybee
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Release Date: January 2017
Length: 322 pages
Series?: Most Likely To #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Zoe Brown may have been voted Most Likely to Never Leave River Bend, but the paper-thin walls and suffocating air of her family’s double-wide trailer were not what she wanted for her life. Other than BFFs Melanie and Jo, the only thing that kept Zoe sane during high school was her boyfriend, Luke.

She didn’t just leave, she escaped—turning her back on the shame of her black-sheep siblings and imprisoned dad. Now a celebrity chef in Dallas, she can afford all the things she never could have growing up. But when she returns to rustic, ruggedly beautiful River Bend, Zoe has to face all that she abandoned—including Luke.

While Luke was a refuge for Zoe in the past, he knows they inhabit totally different worlds now. Anchored by his parents and his job as a mechanic in his father’s shop, Luke never felt the urge to leave River Bend—until Zoe’s return.

But when the two rekindle their old flame, Zoe is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: remain in River Bend and confront her past before it destroys her, or say good-bye to everyone she’s ever loved…again, this time for good.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

 

my review

The Skinny

Despite the talk they all heard growing up, Zoe Brown did not stay in River Bend and relive the trailer tragedy that was her life growing up. She learned to cook in Sam’s diner and took refuge at Ms. Gina’s, and her culinary career took off after participating in a network TV culinary competition show.

Her mother works at the local diner and her father was an abusive drunk. Ziggy eventually wound up in maximum security following a mini mart hold-up. Jo’s dad, the former sheriff, documented as much as possible the doings of Ziggy Brown, and when he returns to town following his release, she breaks out the mountains of files about the Brown family.

The year previous, Zoe returned to River Bend for her 10 year high school reunion, and being back in her small town brought all the old memories of her high school love with Luke back. It didn’t help that they kept running in to one another, and the fact that the flame was still alive. She returned again when Mel’s daughter went missing and Luke realized he wasn’t over her.

With Wyatt and Mel’s upcoming nuptials, they make a decision that sends Luke colliding with Zoe. With monumental life decisions, they reignite what started in high school. With Zoe going back and forth from River Bend to Dallas, she is reevlauating her life – but has a lot of reasons to stay away from River Bend.

The Players

Zoe Brown – a trailer park girl who left her small town and became a famous chef

Luke – Zoe’s high school flame; he stayed in River Bend to work at his dad’s shop

Jo – Zoe’s good friend; she is the local sheriff

Mel – another good friend; she is newly engaged/married to Wyatt and works at Ms. Gina’s

Wyatt – Mel’s significant other

Ms. Gina – the unofficial matron of Zoe, Jo, and Mel; she owns a B&B and is famous for her “red pitcher lemonade”

 

Zoe’s Family

Zane – Zoe’s younger brother; he was a very troubled teen that seems to be headed in the right direction

Zanya – Zoe’s younger sister; she has a baby, Blaze and lives at home trying to get by

Sheryl – the Brown mother; she works at the local diner and looks well beyond her age; deflects and lies

Ziggy – the Brown father; he has been incarcerated for the last 17 years

The Quote

 Miss Gina was still mentoring the youth of River Bend.

“Just keep them out of the lemonade.”

“Are you kidding? That’s what keeps the track team in this town full.”

The Highs and Lows

  • The Familiarity. This is the second book in the series, and I fell in love with the characters back then and reading from a new character’s perspective as their stories and lives continue brings back all the good feels. Knowing the history of the characters and how they are connected and the tight-knit, good friends that they are is sometimes hard to see in our world today. So many people are busy doing their own things, have their own families that keep them busy, and the familiartiy of the characters and the down-homey feel of River Bend was a good return.
  • Zoe. Zoe is a character with a truly troubled past, and it is all revealed in the book. This was not something I really knew from the first one – things were hinted at, but the reality and gravity of the situation was not there. She reveals all in this installment. As a child of abuse, I can empathize with her. She strove to get out of River Bend and not be the same as her parents. Not only did she accomplish that, she became very successful so that she could help assist her mother. With reality crashing in, it is hard for Zoe to accept that everyone else in her family downplays and sugarcoats just how bad it was, and she is left an outsider and feeling like she’s walked through the Twilight Zone. As if everyone else lived in the same reality and she lived in a disillusioned, alternate version. This creates a lot of strife among the members of her family, and tension.
  • Jo. She was that kid in high school that was always in trouble. She overcame that thanks to the Sherriff’s choice of discipline for River Bend hoodlums: running for the track team. It was double punishment that the Sheriff was also her dad. She lives every day in his shadow and takes a lot of cues from his work and the records he kept. She pulls out files upon files when the man her dad worked hard to put away returns to River Bend. None other than Zoe’s father, who hasn’t changed one bit – he’s just learned to be sneakier. Jo is unfailing in that she is on this like a bloodhound and will not give up. She will not see her best friend destroyed and hurt any more than she was before. More spunk and personality of Jo come out in this installment, and she’s an interesting woman. And she’s continuing her father’s legacy.
  • The banter. Because this is a group of friends who have largely grown up with one another the majority of their lives, the interactions are wonderful. No one is left out, even little Hope. The warmth and the concern, the love and the joshing all come out in the dialogue between characters, no matter which ones are in a particular scene. There are funny moments, there are quiet and reflective moments, and their are serious moments. I enjoyed them all.
  • The Plot. The plot centered around Zoe’s possible return to River Bend and her rekindling romance with Luke, but that was one linear plot that bubbles on top of the plot zeroing in on Zoe’s family issues. Ziggy Brown and his influence and reach – his negativity and the bad aura he carries around everywhere he goes – fuels the plot. Everything about Zoe’s life now revolves around how this impacts her family and herself. I will say that Ziggy’s moments he has are crude and very telling. Reading his snippets and scenes made me nervous of what was to come.

The Take-Away

Such great characters and a complex plot! I didn’t think I would encounter as much as I did in this book. Things that were just lurking beneath the surface of the synopsis.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

BUY! Read it. You won’t regret it!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Copyright Julianne Gentry PhotographyNew York Times & USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee was raised in Washington State, but after graduating high school, she moved to Southern California in hopes of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Weekday Brides Series and the Not Quite Series. Bybee lives with her two teenage sons in Southern California.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

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