Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Sisters By Choice: My Review

Sisters by Choice

About the Book:

From the New York Times bestselling author of California Girls comes an all new original Blackberry Island novel told with Susan Mallery’s trademark humor and charm. Sisters by Choice is a heartfelt tale of love, family and the friendships that see us through.

Cousins by chance, sisters by choice…

After her cat toy empire goes up in flames, Sophie Lane returns to Blackberry Island, determined to rebuild. Until small-town life reveals a big problem: she can’t grow unless she learns to let go. If Sophie relaxes her grip even a little, she might lose everything. Or she might finally be free to reach for the happiness and love that have eluded her for so long.

Kristine has become defined by her relationship to others. She’s a wife, a mom. As much as she adores her husband and sons, she wants something for herself—a sweet little bakery just off the waterfront. She knew changing the rules wouldn’t be easy, but she never imagined she might have to choose between her marriage and her dreams.

Like the mainland on the horizon, Heather’s goals seem beyond her grasp. Every time she manages to save for college, her mother has another crisis. Can she break free, or will she be trapped in this tiny life forever?

My Comments:

They say you pick your friends but you are born with (and stuck with) family, but I don't think that's necessarily true.  Yes, you are born with family but you get to pick how you interact with them and this book shows how both family and friends (defining "friends" as people you choose to have in your life) can move you ahead or hold you back.  

Sophie lost her parents when she was in high school but has built a successful business named after the most important being in her adult life--her cat.  The book is about her learning to properly relate to others--to the man in her life, to her employees and to her family and friends.

Kristine wonders whether finding herself and moving on in life means leaving her husband behind.  Will he learn to let her have what she need?  What should be the balance between what is good for a person and what is good for their marriage?  Should one overwhelm the other, or without one, does the other not exist? 

Amber is Sohie and Krisitine's aunt, and a professional victim.  Nothing ever goes right, and she seems determined to make sure her daughter follows in her footsteps.  What constitutes helping Amber?  Enabling?  Does it matter?

Heather is Amber's daughter and the person who has been taking care of Amber for the last five years.  Of course that doesn't leave her much time to be a twenty year old.  How can she escape?  Should she? 

The strength of Susan Mallery's Blackberry Island books is her characters and these women are no exception.  While the book contains a romance subplot, it is secondary to the relationship between the women in the story.  At first I was very annoyed that Sophies relationship seemed to be about nothing but sex, until I realized that it fit her and where she was at that point in her life.  Luckily, she had a good guy who realized that was what was going on, and once he decided he wanted her, he put the brakes on that part of their relationship,which I found interesting for a modern book.  

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

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Words Between Us: My Review

The Words between Us: A Novel by [Bartels, Erin]

About the Book:

Robin Windsor has spent most of her life under an assumed name, running from her family's ignominious past. She thought she'd finally found sanctuary in her rather unremarkable used bookstore just up the street from the marina in River City, Michigan. But the store is struggling and the past is hot on her heels.

When she receives an eerily familiar book in the mail on the morning of her father's scheduled execution, Robin is thrown back to the long-lost summer she met Peter Flynt, the perfect boy who ruined everything. That book--a first edition Catcher in the Rye--is soon followed by the other books she shared with Peter nearly twenty years ago, with one arriving in the mail each day. But why would Peter be making contact after all these years? And why does she have a sinking feeling that she's about to be exposed all over again?

With evocative prose that recalls the classic novels we love, Erin Bartels pens a story that shows that words--the ones we say, the ones we read, and the ones we write--have more power than we imagine.

My Comments:

The cover is what drew this bookworm to this book.  As noted above, books were an important part of Robin and Peter's relationship back in high school and they are the way he brings himself back into her life today.  Back in high school Peter used to give her books that had belonged to his mother, an English teacher who had died recently.  The books had is mother's highlights and notes; all were sad an all included women whose lives were unhappy.  To "pay" for the book, Robin would write poems for Peter.  

When Robin left town suddenly, she returned the books to Peter, leaving them on his doorstep.  Now he is sending them back, one at a time, and inside the books, he wrote her poems.  Why?  

Besides the Robin/Peter plotline there is the question of what happened all those years ago that landed her parents in jail.  Her dad is supposed to be executed but receives a last-minute stay.  

Erin Bartels' writing is lyrical, the prose is practically poetry.  The descriptions are lush without being overdone.  It is one of those books where I can read a paragraph out loud just to hear the beauty of the words.  That's the good.  

Robin runs a used book store and during the course of the book is engaged in building a dinosaur out of used books.  She also daily gives her parrot an old book to tear up.  She notes that there are some books that stand the test of time; their characters become part of reader and the reader's life whereas in other books, like those used for the parrot or the dinosaur, readers don't remember them after they have read them. For all the beauty in the writing of this book, it falls squarely in the second category.  Basically, none of it rings true.  Knowing what I know about law (and which I'll admit most people do not), the story of her parents has too many holes in it.  Robin's finds that convince her to leave town seem improbable at best.  What she does when she leaves town?  Nope, doesn't sound real either.  How the problem of her parents gets solved? Farfetced to say the least.  

The book is published by Revell, which is a Christian imprint, but two thirds of the way through the book I had no idea why it was considered "Christian".  Robin's grandmother went to church but about all that was said about it was that Robin refused to go.  In the last third of the book Robin meets a minor character at church and we hear the sermon, and later get some advice from the minister's wife, but I didn't find faith to be a major factor in the book and if it otherwise appeals to you, I wouldn't let a dislike of faith-based literature dissuade you from reading this. 

I got the book from my library via Hoopla.  It is available at no addtional cost if you are a Kindle Unlimited member.  

Review: Country Strong

Country Strong

About the Book:

Don’t miss Country Strong, the first book in Linda Lael Miller’s brand-new Painted Pony Creek series about three best friends whose strength, honor and independence exemplify the Montana land they love.

Ever since she was a teenager living in difficult circumstances, Shallie wanted Cord--but then she abruptly left the small Montana town of Painted Pony Creek, without telling anyone why or where she went. Now she's back and the old feelings are stronger than ever...and so are her impressions of the woman who betrayed him years ago. But Shallie’s not the only one who returns from the past.

Look for COUNTRY STRONG, the first book in a brand new western romance trilogy from #1 New York Times bestselling author Linda Lael Miller!

Years ago, Cord Hollister thought he was in love with a beautiful, wild young woman named Reba. But he--and his two best friends--were betrayed when they discovered that Reba was having affairs with all of them. They all broke it off and she disappeared. They healed their friendships but now, years later, Carly, a girl who is Reba's spitting image, comes to Painted Pony Creek, Montana, looking for her father, who’s one of them, she claims. As Cord and his friends try to unravel the truth of who Carly's father really is and come to terms with the time they’ve lost with her, someone else from Cord's past blows into town.

Shallie Fletcher is even lovelier than Cord remembered but the last time they saw each other, he hurt her feelings. Now she back in Painted Pony Creek because she needs his help in learning how to train horses. The last thing he needs is another complication in his life though so he'll give her two weeks max and then he'll send her on her way. But he never expected to be as drawn to her as he is...

Just the sight of Cord Hollister makes Shallie's heart beat faster. Time has clearly changed him for the better. She's back in town for one reason only to learn from Cord, the horse whisperer, himself—at least that's what she tells herself. But from the moment she sees him, she knows that isn't true. She still wants him now as much as she did all those years ago. But can he ever feel the same about her?

My Comments:

Unless you are happily married to your high school sweetheart, chances are there is someone in your past who "got away".  Maybe the timing wasn't right.  Probably you weren't right for each other (otherwise you'd still be together), But, when you look back, you still smile, and wonder "what if", and, for most of us, sensibly keep that as part of your PAST, not Facebook stalking or dwelling on that relationship rather than today's relationship.  

Cord and Shallie were an item in high school, until Cord fell for Shallie's friend Reba.  Shallie left town with a broken heart, leaving behind a dysfunctional family and a man she thought she loved.  She decides to head back to town at about the same time Reba's orphaned teenaged daughter shows up, looking for her father.  Of course Carly has her own secrets but the overall theme of the book is the search for family.  Shallie wonders what happened to her mom that caused her to be abandoned to the care of relatives.  Cord wants to know why his mother has never been a part of his life and, as noted above, Carly wants to know her father.  

Honestly, the whole resolution (this is a Linda Lael Miller romance, of course the problems are resolved) was just a little too tidy but I liked Shallie, Cord and Carly as well as their friends and family and I look forward to returning to town to see who Cord's friends end up with.  

Thanks to the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade: B

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