Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Cottages on Silver Beach: My Review

About the Book:

Megan Hamilton never really liked Elliot Bailey. He turned his back on her family when they needed him the most and it almost tore them all apart. So she’s shocked when Elliot arrives at her family’s inn, needing a place to stay and asking questions that dredge up the past. Megan will rent him a cottage, but that’s where it ends—no matter how gorgeous Elliot has become. 

Coming back home to Haven Point was the last thing bestselling writer Elliot Bailey thought he’d ever do. But the book he’s writing now is his most personal one yet and it’s drawn him back to the woman he can’t get out of his mind. Seeing Megan again is harder than he expected and it brings up feelings he’d thought were long buried. Could this be his chance to win over his first love?

My Comments:

True to RaeAnne Thayne's style, this story includes elements of small town closeness, family love and two people who were destined to be together.  Elliot returned to his hometown--but not his home--to recover from an on-the-job injury sustained as and FBI agent.  While he is there, he works his side-gig, as a famous author.  

Sparks have always flown between Elliot and Megan but there has always been some reason things never got off the ground.  Yes, this is the time that changes, but as in Thayne's other stories, we don't get in on an bedroom action.  

The book ends with a bit of a cliffhanger; Elliot solved a mystery but it's one of those answers that just brings forth more questions, and more book set in this charming town.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  It was a quick, enjoyable heartwarming read, as most of Thayne's books are.  Grade:  B.  

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Every Note Played: My Review

Every Note Played by [Genova, Lisa]

Every Note Played

About the Book:

An accomplished concert pianist, Richard received standing ovations from audiences all over the world in awe of his rare combination of emotional resonance and flawless technique. Every finger of his hands was a finely calibrated instrument, dancing across the keys and striking each note with exacting precision. That was eight months ago.

Richard now has ALS, and his entire right arm is paralyzed. His fingers are impotent, still, devoid of possibility. The loss of his hand feels like a death, a loss of true love, a divorce—his divorce.

He knows his left arm will go next.

Three years ago, Karina removed their framed wedding picture from the living room wall and hung a mirror there instead. But she still hasn’t moved on. Karina is paralyzed by excuses and fear, stuck in an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher, afraid to pursue the path she abandoned as a young woman, blaming Richard and their failed marriage for all of it.

When Richard becomes increasingly paralyzed and is no longer able to live on his own, Karina becomes his reluctant caretaker. As Richard’s muscles, voice, and breath fade, both he and Karina try to reconcile their past before it’s too late.

Poignant and powerful, Every Note Played is a masterful exploration of redemption and what it means to find peace inside of forgiveness.

My Comments:

Last year, my Facebook feed was filled with people doing the "Ice Bucket Challenge"; agreeing to have themselves videoed while pouring ice water on themselves, in exchange for donations for ALS research.  Here in New Orleans a local hero is Steve Gleason, a former player for the Saints, who has lived with ALS since 2011.  Both this book and the story of Steve Gleason's life make it clear that ALS is one nasty disease. 

When Richard is first diagnosed, as many people do, he went through a "denial" stage--his disease would progress slowly, he would manage to be independent, he wouldn't lose his voice but  the losses came anyway.

Richard and Karina had divorced and of course each was well aware of what the other had done to break trust.  Each was still hurting over the break-up of the marriage but since they weren't the one at fault, neither could really move past it either.  Marriage vows are taken "for better for worse, in sickness and in health" and while Richard and Karina were not able to live those vows while healthy, Karina was able to live them when Richard became ill.  By caring for him through his decline and death, she showed that love is a decision, not just an emotion and, in the end, her love was, in some way, returned.

This book deeply moved me, which is unusual in a book where I really didn't like any of the characters.  Richard was way too self-centered.  Karina struck me as one of those people who just didn't know how to be happy--her problems in life before Richard got sick weren't all that much different or greater than many people's problems but she couldn't just relax, focus on the good and be happy.  Rather she spent her time focusing on what she didn't have and refusing to move on with life.  Their daughter was a rather self-centered college student, but I guess that's pretty par for the course at that age.  I did like the primary home health aid and if there was ever a job that is way underpaid, that's it. 

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  A.  

My Review: Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice (Winter Street) by [Hilderbrand, Elin]

About the Book:

It's been too long since the entire Quinn family has been able to celebrate the holidays under the same roof, but that's about to change. With Bart back safe and sound from Afghanistan, the Quinns are preparing for a holiday more joyous than any they've experienced in years. And Bart's safe return isn't the family's only good news: Kevin is enjoying married life with Isabelle; Patrick is getting back on his feet after paying his debt to society; Ava thinks she's finally found the love of her life; and Kelly is thrilled to see his family reunited at last. But it just wouldn't be a Quinn family gathering if things went smoothly. A celebration of everything we love--and some of the things we endure--about the holidays, WINTER SOLSTICE is Elin Hilderbrand at her festive best. 

My Comments:

When I think of Elin Hilderbrand, I think of beach reads--stories set at the beach in the summer, stories that entertain but don't tax you mentally.  This week I'm at the beach and I perused my TBR stack on my Kindle and found Winter Solstice by Hilderbrand and decided to give it a whirl. I guess I should have realized that a book called Winter Solstice wouldn't end up as a warm summery read.

Chapters of the books were titled by the name of a character and showed that character's take on events.  When I read the book I did not realize it was part of a series, but I probably should have guessed as it had a large number of characters with a lot of history that was alluded to but not fully explained.  

One of the characters mentioned that the good thing about the winter solstice is that days get longer thereafter--up until then you watch the days get shorter and shorter.  We learn early in the book that the days of the father of the family are getting shorter--he has a brain tumor and has said "enough" to treatment.  In October, no one seems settled--a lot of the characters have moved out of one part of their lives but haven't fully become established in another and as we watch Kerry's life fade, we watch his children stretch their wings and grow their days.

While the book has plenty of references to past infidelities, everyone in this book remains faithful and there are no sex scenes.  

While not exactly the breezy beach read I was hoping for, I did enjoy this book.  I would recommend reading the other Winter Street books first -- though in a lot of ways I suspect the whole saga is somewhat soap-opera-ish.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B.  

Friday, June 01, 2018

Book Review: The Summer List

The Summer List: A Novel by [Mason Doan, Amy]

About the Book:

Laura and Casey were once inseparable: as they floated on their backs in the sunlit lake, as they dreamed about the future under starry skies, and as they teamed up for the wild scavenger hunts in their small California lakeside town. Until one summer night, when a shocking betrayal sent Laura running through the pines, down the dock, and into a new life, leaving Casey and a first love in her wake.

But the past is impossible to escape, and now, after seventeen years away, Laura is pulled home and into a reunion with Casey she can’t resist—one last scavenger hunt. With a twist: this time, the list of clues leads to the settings of their most cherished summer memories. From glistening Jade Cove to the vintage skating rink, each step they take becomes a bittersweet reminder of the friendship they once shared. But just as the game brings Laura and Casey back together, the clues unravel a stunning secret that threatens to tear them apart… 

Mesmerizing and unforgettable, Amy Mason Doan’s The Summer List is about losing and recapturing the person who understands you best—and the unbreakable bonds of girlhood.

My Comments:

This book follows three timelines and it is easy to see how two of them connect and eventually readers realize how the third relates as well--though my first guess was wrong.  Two of the timelines were dated--one in the present day when Laura and Casey are in their 30's and one in the '90s when they were teens.  The third timeline is in italics.  

As noted above, something happened to tear Casey and Laura apart but Casey has no idea what it is.  Laura just left and never came back.  Casey's mother had a reason for wanting the "girls" back together again and she tricked them into a weekend together, a weekend during which she set up a scavenger hunt for them--similar to the scavenger hunts she used to design for them and their peers when they were in high school.  As they move through the clues they learn the truth about each other, their families and their friends, and, of course, themselves.  

While I found a couple of the situations rather hard to believe, I enjoyed the story and recommend it.  Grade:  B+

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley. 

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