Thursday, April 19, 2018

Review: The Family Gathering by Robyn Carr

Title: The Family Gathering
Author: Robyn Carr
Series: Sullivan's Crossing, #3
Published: April 2018, Mira Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 288 pages
Source: Publisher via Little Bird Publicity

An exceptional storyteller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr beautifully captures the emotionally charged, complex dynamics that come with being part of any family. Readers will laugh and shed a few tears as they discover what it means to be loved, supported and accepted by the people who mean the most. 

Having left the military, Dakota Jones is at a crossroads in his life. With his elder brother and youngest sister happily settled in Sullivan’s Crossing, he shows up hoping to clear his head before moving on to his next adventure. But, like every visitor to the Crossing, he’s immediately drawn to the down-to-earth people and the seemingly simple way of life.

Dakota is unprepared for how quickly things get complicated. As a newcomer, he is on everyone’s radar—especially the single women in town. While he enjoys the attention at first, he’s really only attracted to the one woman who isn’t interested. And spending quality time with his siblings is eye-opening. As he gets to know them, he also gets to know himself and what he truly wants.

When all the Jones siblings gather for a family wedding, the four adults are drawn together for the first time in a way they never were as children. As they struggle to accept each other, warts and all, the true nature and strength of their bond is tested. But all of them come to realize that your family are the people who see you for who you really are and love you anyway. And for Dakota, that truth allows him to find the home and family he’s always wanted.

My thoughts: This is the third book in Robyn Carr's Sullivan's Crossing series and I have to say, this series just keeps getting better and better. I think so far, this one might be my favorite - mainly because of the strong family bonds that we see.

As I tend to say each time I review a book in a series, I highly recommend reading the series in order. While this book certainly can and does stand on its own, I think you will find it a much more fuller reading experience if you read the two previous books first. You will understand the family dynamics and the other characters' backstories that are alluded to without having anything spoiled if you decide to go back and read them after. 

This latest installment is mainly centered around Dakota Jones, who has come to the Crossing to decide what to do next with his life. Usually he pops up for a quick visit with his brother and sister and then heads out, but this time, he decides to stick around for a while. He also finds an attractive bartender that he wouldn't mind spending some time with - though she appears to be a tough nut to crack. 

What I love about this series is that while there is a romance involved, there is also a serious side to these books. This time, Robyn Carr delves into mental illness as well as stalking, adoption, divorce and it's after-effects, and a few other topics. It's got substance making it a more substantial read than just a fluff read. And then there is the theme of family gatherings that carries on throughout the book - and this to me really resonates, coming from such a large family. To me, there's nothing your family can't help you get through.

I also love that characters we've come to love and think of as "friends" make appearances in this latest book. Even though this book is mainly about Dakota, we still get updates on other characters we've met along the way. This series really is about a community and Robyn Carr has such a way of drawing you in that you feel as if you are part of this community yourself.

I really enjoy this series and can't wait to see what comes next. As I was reading and kept meeting new people, I kept wondering if perhaps they would be the focus on the next book. I do wonder if perhaps one person in particular will be the focus, but I'm not sure. I guess only time will tell!

Books in this series: 
  1. What We Find
  2. Any Day Now
  3. The Family Gathering

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Review: All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson

Title: All the Beautiful Lies
Author: Peter Swanson
Published: April 2018, William Morrow
Format: Hardcover, 287 pages
Source: Publisher

Harry Ackerson has always considered his step-mother Alice to be sexy and beautiful, in an “other worldly” way. She has always been kind and attentive, if a little aloof in the last few years.

Days before his college graduation, Alice calls with shocking news. His father is dead and the police think it’s suicide. Devastated, he returns to his father’s home in Maine. There, he and Alice will help one another pick up of the pieces of their lives and uncover what happened to his father.

Shortly after he arrives, Harry meets a mysterious young woman named Grace McGowan. Though she claims to be new to the area, Harry begins to suspect that Grace may not be a complete stranger to his family. But she isn’t the only attractive woman taking an interest in Harry. The sensual Alice is also growing closer, coming on to him in an enticing, clearly sexual way.

Mesmerized by these two women, Harry finds himself falling deeper under their spell. Yet the closer he gets to them, the more isolated he feels, disoriented by a growing fear that both women are hiding dangerous—even deadly—secrets . . . and that neither one is telling the truth.

My thoughts: I think what I love most about reading so many psychological thrillers is always being kept on my toes. There are ones that you can guess where they are headed, and then there are ones like this one that chock full of twists and turns and keep you glued to the pages as you desperately try to connect all the dots to figure out what is going on. 

This book is dark and twisted. It goes to some places that are definitely going to make some people uncomfortable, but for me, what really kept me interested and glued to the pages was the way the story was told. Alternating back in and forth in time, we get the present and the past, learning about Alice's history. As much as this book is about what happened to Harry's father, I think Alice's character really does steal the show - she is such a fascinating character and her story really compells you to keep reading. There's just something not right about her.

This book really pulls you in, but it might not be for everyone. The relationships that the book explores tend to wander into the taboo category which might turn people off - think huge age gaps and inappropriate relationships. If you can get past that, though, it really is quite a page-turner because of the fascinating characters you do meet in this book...and I mean, crazy, intriguing characters! And all the lies...OMG...once they start coming out, it's one shock after another.

This is a very addictive, fun book. It's dark and twisty and has complicated, complex characters that likeable or not, just pull you in further and further. I love books like that and cannot wait to read more from this author! 


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review: Somebody's Daughter by Rochelle B. Weinstein (audio)

Title: Somebody's Daughter
Author: Rochelle B. Weinstein
Narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Published: April 2018, Brilliance Audio / Lake Union Publishing
Length: 10 hours 59 minutes / 320 pages
Source: Audio - Brilliance Audio / Print - Lake Union Publishing via GetRed PR

From USA Today bestselling author Rochelle B. Weinstein comes an emotional novel for mothers, daughters, and anyone who has ever felt imperfect.
 Emma and Bobby Ross enjoy a charmed life on the shores of Miami Beach. They are a model family with a successful business, an uncomplicated marriage, and two blessedly typical twin daughters, Zoe and Lily. They are established members of a tight-knit community.

Then, on the night of the girls’ fifteenth birthday party, they learn of Zoe’s heartbreaking mistake—a private and humiliating indiscretion that goes viral and thrusts her and her family into the center of a shocking public scandal.

As the family’s core is shattered by disgrace, judgment, and retribution, the fallout takes its toll. But for Emma, the shame runs deeper. Her daughter’s reckless behavior has stirred memories of her own secrets that could break a marriage, a family, and friendships forever.

My thoughts: If there is one book you read this book that you pick up, I highly suggest this one be it. Whether you are a parent or not, this is such an important book. It provides so much food for thought and is told in such a compelling, thoughtful way that you will be thinking about it long after you finish that last page.

I have to say upfront, I am not a parent, but I have many, many nieces and nephews growing up in today's world - a world much different than the world I grew up in. Social media wasn't part of our vocabulary growing up and so we could do "silly" things as teenagers and not really have to worry about it going viral. Not so much in today's world, where one act can literally haunt you forever if it is captured and shared.  And this is what Rochelle Weinstein has shown us in this book.

This is an emotional book. I felt all the emotions right alongside the characters - that's how real and relatable this book is. It is powerful and raw, yet it is so timely and important, too. We live in a society that is all about social media. Think how many times you go anywhere - you see people of all ages on their phones, using Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. All it takes it one compromising photo, whether you give your permission or not, and it's out there for all to see. But that's not all...what about the other side? How many of us that use these apps use it as a sense of self-worth? I know this is especially true in the teen generation, but I really don't think it's limited to that. If you are on Instagram, can you honestly say you haven't been bummed when your post hasn't gotten a ton of likes? Since when do we use this as a measure of success? This is just a small slice of the trap that is Social Media and I don't think any of us, at any age really understand the true pitfalls of it.

This book really made me think, really made we wonder just what it is that we can do to help the younger generations to come fully understand all that is involved in Social Media. But it's so much more than that, too. This book is also about the love and bond of a family that is struggling with a mistake one makes and how to effectively, supportively, and constructively deal with the fallout. A great read, and one that would be excellent for book clubs - so much food for thought!

Audio thoughts: I really enjoyed this audio book and thought Tavia Gilbert did an excellent job with the narration. She was able to give all the characters their own voices and she infused just the right amount of tension and emotion into her voice as needed. Her pacing and tone were spot on and really made the characters come to life.


Monday, April 16, 2018

Review: The Secret Room by Sandra Block (audio)

Title: The Secret Room
Author: Sandra Block
Series: Zoe Goldman, #3
Narrator: Jennifer Nittoso
Published: April 2017, Hachette Audio
Length: 9 hours 2 minutes
Source: Publisher 

Her patients are dying. Some are apparent suicides and others possible accidents, but rumors are flying that Dr. Zoe Goldman is an angel of death-intentionally helping hopeless cases go to a "better place"-or, worse yet, a dangerously incompetent doctor.

As a new psychiatry fellow at the local correctional facility, Zoe is still learning the ropes while watching her back to avoid some dangerous prisoners. As the deaths mount up, Zoe is wracked with horror and guilt, feverishly trying to figure out what is going wrong and even questioning her own sanity.

What Zoe doesn't realize is that someone is targeting her patients to get to her. Someone who has access to her deepest secrets and fears. Someone who will stop at nothing to take everything Zoe has, even her life.

My thoughts: This is the third book in Sandra Block's Zoe Goldman's series and I really enjoy this series. It's such a good combination of character study and psychological/medical thriller that really gets under your skin and pulls you in.

As you know I'm a stickler when it comes to reading books in a series in just makes sense and often times later books in the series often times contain spoilers to the earlier books. That is definitely the case here, so I highly suggest reading these books in order. Plus, you really get the character development that is such a big part of this series as it is meant to be - without learning anything out of order.

This is the type of book that sneaks up on you. Nothing is as it seems and there are many layers at play here as the mysteries twist and turn, the suspense ratchets up and the tension builds. There are metaphors at play here - both in relation to the "room" as well as to our minds and it very cleverly plays with you as you are devouring this story - and I mean that in the best of ways...once you start this book, you will be hard-pressed to put it down!

This is a creepy, dark story that at times is told by an unknown person - and to me, these parts really kept me on my toes. I was all over the place trying to figure out who this voice was. And then there were the dying patients' of Zoe...was it her and she was so out of it that she just didn't realize she was misjudging things, or was someone out to get her, framing her with these deaths? I really was all over the place with my thinking on this...and I love that! I love when I can't quite put my finger on where things are heading.

This mystery really kept me thinking the whole time...and it's not that often I come across a book that does that. Usually I am able to figure some parts out, but not here. This is such a thought-provoking, at times anxiety-inducing book and I really hope it's not the last we've seen of Zoe!

Audio thoughts: I was so happy to see that Jennifer Nittoso was narrating this book. She narrated the previous one in this series and I thought she had done a great job. She really brings Zoe to life and was consistent in her voices this time around. Her pacing and tone were spot on and I enjoyed her narration. I really hope if there is another book in this series, that she narrates it!

Books in this series:

  1. Little Black Lies
  2. The Girl Without a Name
  3. The Secret Room

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Review: The Good Liar by Catherine McKenzie (audio)

Title: The Good Liar
Author: Catherine McKenzie
Narrator: Teri Clark Lindon, Kate Rudd, Whitney Dykhouse, JD Jackson
Published: April 2018, Brilliance Audio
Length: 10 hours 8 minutes
Source: Publisher

Can you hide a secret with the whole world watching?When an explosion rips apart a Chicago building, the lives of three women are forever altered.

A year later, Cecily is in mourning. She was supposed to be in the building that day. Instead, she stood on the street and witnessed it going down, with her husband and best friend inside. Kate, now living thousands of miles away, fled the disaster and is hoping that her past won’t catch up with her. And Franny, a young woman in search of her birth mother, watched the horror unfold on the morning news, knowing that the woman she was so desperate to reconnect with was in the building.

Now, despite the marks left by the tragedy, they all seem safe. But as its anniversary dominates the media, the memories of that terrifying morning become dangerous triggers. All these women are guarding important secrets. Just how far will they go to keep them?

My thoughts: This is the third book that I've read by Catherine McKenzie and I find that each of her stories seem to get more and more intricate and complicated and more intriguing the more she writes! This one hooked me right from the beginning and never really let up...especially as you start to unravel all the layers.

I always find there is such a mystery sometimes in a title...but this one is so aptly named. Here we have a book that is centered on three women who are loosely connected by a tragedy and yet as we learn more about them, you slowly pick up on a few things. You will definitely make opinions about these women - some favorable and some not - and you might even change your mind on these opinions throughout the book. You will go through a range of emotions over the choices these women make, again not always favorable, but yet I think you will be hard pressed to walk away from this book - it will suck you in...because you will want to know the whys...why have they done what they have done?

I found myself glued to this book...I didn't always agree with the choices these women made, but I needed to know why they did what they did. I was curious, I was desperate to know what was going on. And on top of that, it's a twisty, crazy ride that moves along at a relatively fast pace, so it's just plain enjoyable. At the end of the day, this is a great book, with fascinating characters that might spin out of control, but isn't that the fun in reading?

Audio thoughts: This was a treat to listen to...and I so loved that it was done with a cast of characters. It really made the story come alive. Each of the narrators did such a good job with their parts, using just the right amount of tension and emotion when needed. I really enjoyed this audio book - it's one of the better ones I've listened to with a cast of narrators.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Review: Our Little Secret by Roz Nay

Title: Our Little Secret
Author: Roz Nay
Published: April 2018, St. Martin's Press
Format: ARC Paperback, 272 pages
Source: Publisher

“A cracking read...Our Little Secret builds to a deliciously dark conclusion.” —Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in Cabin 10
Our Little Secret is a twisted tale of love, pain, and revenge that will stay with the reader long after they turn the last page.

They say you never forget your first love. What they don’t say though, is that sometimes your first love won’t forget you…

A police interview room is the last place Angela expected to find herself today. It’s been hours, and they keep asking her the same inane questions over and over. “How do you know the victim?” “What’s your relationship with Mr. Parker?” Her ex’s wife has gone missing, and anyone who was close to the couple is a suspect. Angela is tired of the bottomless questions and tired of the cold room that stays the same while a rotating litany of interrogators changes shifts around her. But when criminologist Novak takes over, she can tell he’s not like the others. He’s ready to listen, and she knows he’ll understand. When she tells him that her story begins a decade before, long before Saskia was in the picture, he gives her the floor. 

A twenty-something young professional, Angela claims to have no involvement. How could she? It’s been years since she and H.P., Mr. Parker that is, were together. As her story unfolds, it deepens and darkens. There’s a lot to unpack… betrayal, jealousy, and a group of people who all have motives for retribution. If Angela is telling the truth, then who’s lying?

My thoughts: There are some books that just call to you...and this is definitely that kind of book. As you know, I am a huge fan of psychological suspense/thriller type books - I read tons of them, and you might think I would get tired of them...reading them all the time. But when there are ones out there, like this one, that blow you away, it's hard to stop reading in this genre...and to think that this is a debut novel!

This little book packs quite a totally sucks you in and while you might think not much is going on - you would be totally wrong! I think the true genius here is in the way it is crafted. Having the backstory framed by the interrogation allows the backstory in a sense to become "the story." It's here that we learn about all our players and just what has gone on - this is where the suspense slowly starts in the past and every so slowly takes us up to the present. And as we are getting all this, there are breaks, where we come back to the present and see Angela in the interview room with the detective.

This book is a slow burning tale that really takes you on quite a ride...and gets under your skin the further you get into the story. It toys with your emotions, allowing you to think it's just an innocent love story until it veers off track. Then all of a sudden, things are a bit more complicated, and what was once light and cheery is now tinged with darkness.

What I loved is that you become so wrapped up in this story, you become invested in what is going on that you are pulled in all different directions as to what really much so that by the time you reach the conclusion, you are in for quite a surprise. At least I was! I definitely will be keeping Roz Nay on my radar - this debut shows that she is a writer that knows how to spin a tale and I cannot wait to see what comes next from her!

Book Spotlight & Giveaway: Our Little Secret by Roz Nay

Next week, April 17th, Roz Nay's debut novel, Our Little Secret, comes out, and because I ended up with an extra copy, I'm going to give that copy away - and it's a finished copy! I've just finished reading this book - it's amazing!!! - and will be posting my review later on today. You can see what others have to say below and then be sure to enter the giveaway below!!!

Title: Our Little Secret
Author: Roz Nay
Published: April 2018, St. Martin's Press
Format: Hardcover, 272 pages

“A cracking read...Our Little Secret builds to a deliciously dark conclusion.” —Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in Cabin 10
Our Little Secret is a twisted tale of love, pain, and revenge that will stay with the reader long after they turn the last page.

They say you never forget your first love. What they don’t say though, is that sometimes your first love won’t forget you…

A police interview room is the last place Angela expected to find herself today. It’s been hours, and they keep asking her the same inane questions over and over. “How do you know the victim?” “What’s your relationship with Mr. Parker?” Her ex’s wife has gone missing, and anyone who was close to the couple is a suspect. Angela is tired of the bottomless questions and tired of the cold room that stays the same while a rotating litany of interrogators changes shifts around her. But when criminologist Novak takes over, she can tell he’s not like the others. He’s ready to listen, and she knows he’ll understand. When she tells him that her story begins a decade before, long before Saskia was in the picture, he gives her the floor. 

A twenty-something young professional, Angela claims to have no involvement. How could she? It’s been years since she and H.P., Mr. Parker that is, were together. As her story unfolds, it deepens and darkens. There’s a lot to unpack… betrayal, jealousy, and a group of people who all have motives for retribution. If Angela is telling the truth, then who’s lying?

Early Praise:

"Nay lures readers down a dark and tangled path that explores the aftereffects of lost first loves...a gripping addition to the psych thriller world." ―Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl

"A gripping and disturbing story, which left me guessing until the very end." ―B.A. Paris, New York Times bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors and The Breakdown

"Clever and addictive, Our Little Secret won’t stay a secret for long―it’s that good."―Chevy Stevens, New York Times bestselling author of Still Missing and Never Let You Go

"A hugely accomplished first novel―and one which, in the guise of a page turner, poses many questions about intimacy, jealousy and the vertiginous trajectory that is revenge."―Douglas Kennedy, international bestselling author of The Pursuit of Happiness and Leaving the World

"In Our Little Secret, Roz Nay shows how the past is never truly past, and can be darker than we guess, especially when it comes to first loves. A most promising debut."― Andrew Pyper, bestselling author of The Demonologist and The Only Child

“In Roz Nay’s tightly woven debut Our Little Secret we meet Angela – a wily woman with a twisted love story, who is in quite a heap of trouble. As the story unfolds and the mystery deepens, the breadcrumbs Nay expertly leaves behind reveal a dark truth you won’t see coming. Ruth Ware fans will love this compulsive, impossible-to-put-down novel!”―Karma Brown, bestselling author of Come Away With Me and The Choices We Make

“A stunning debut…. Our Little Secret is a deliciously twisted novel about a love triangle. It’s so suspenseful your heart will be pounding as you hurry to the end. Roz Nay has proven she can write the thriller you haven't read before.” ―Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke, authors of The Good Widow

“A juicy, darkly comic tour through an unpredictable mind, populated by characters as captivating as they are despicable. If you liked Disclaimer, you're in for a treat with this one.”―Averil Dean, author of Alice Close Your Eyes

"A sneaky-smart, charismatic debut that will win fans among those who enjoy the kind of duplicitous and deliciously complex psychological suspense written by Ruth Ware, Sophie Hannah, and Erin Kelly."―Booklist

"Fans of Paula Hawkins and Ruth Ware will devour this twisty psychological thriller; Nay has expertly crafted a narrative that has the potential to veer in several directions, keeping the readers enthralled and guessing until the end."―Library Journal

"[A] mesmerizing debut...Nay expertly spins an insidious, clever web, perfectly capturing the soaring heights and crushing lows of first love and how the loss of that love can make even the sanest people a little crazy. Carve out some time for this riveting, one-sitting read."―Kirkus Reviews

"Captivating...Nay is a writer to watch."―Publishers Weekly

"Heading to a cottage this weekend and need a guaranteed good read? Bring this book. Trust me: you're likely to read it in one breathless sitting. When you return to reality, it will be well past midnight and everyone else will have gone to bed. [A] winding, deceptive descent towards the truth about what happened. I didn't see it coming, and neither will you."―The Globe and Mail

"Seemingly every aspiring author out there is now busy capitalizing on the trend, crafting dark psychological thrillers with unreliable female narrators and wild plot twists. It’s increasingly difficult, then, to stand out in this crowded market... All of this is why first-time author Roz Nay’s debut Our Little Secret is so impressive."―Toronto Star


Giveaway Details -- (US Only) 
Thanks to the publicist, one reader will win a finished copy of Our Little Secret by Roz Nay. To enter the giveaway, please fill out the rafflecopter by April 18th.  

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway is open to US residents only and ends April 18th.

Good Luck!!!


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Review: The New Neighbors by Simon Lelic

Title: The New Neighbors
Author: Simon Lelic
Published: April 2018, Berkley
Format: ARC E-copy, 328 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher


My thoughts: This is the first time I've read anything by Simon Lelic and I am definitely intrigued by his writing style. It was dark and twisted, yet it was the writing style that kept me more intrigued than anything else!

I love this type of book - the type of book that sneaks up on you, sometimes without you even realizing it. That's the type of book this is. It starts off quite benignly, and then before you know it, it's moved into something quite dark and sinister and you are completely hooked. And the short chapters that alternate between Jack and Syd, writing entries into a journal of sorts just adds to the intrigue.

What I loved about this writing style, the use of the journal, is that it forces them to be concise and to the point. There isn't a lot of complex dialogues and flowing descriptions. I found this to be a nice change of pace from all the other books out there - not to say that I would want to see this all the time, but it worked here. And I liked that not only did this allow for us to get their thoughts about what was going on about the house, but it also provided us with the background information about each of them before they were a couple. It really was a clever way to tell a story.

This is a fast-paced, gripping book and the tension runs throughout. You know things aren't right, you know not all is as it seems but you just can't put you finger on why or how. And I for one did not see that final twist coming, which I love...I love when I am totally surprised! I will definitely be checking out what else Simon Lelic has written as I think he is an author I will enjoy reading. Have you read anything else by him?

***This was originally published as The House in the UK.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Review: Before I Let You In by Jenny Blackhurst

Title: Before I Let You In
Author: Jenny Blackhurst
Published: April 2018, Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Format: ARC E-copy, 352 pages
Source: Netgalley via Publisher

The next gripping psychological thriller by the author of How I Lost You, Jenny Blackhurst’s #1 international bestseller, about a psychiatrist and patient relationship that turns not only toxic…but deadly.

Karen, Eleanor, and Bea have been best friends since childhood. They know everything about each other’s lives, or at least they think they do. Now in their thirties, though their lives are beginning to diverge: Eleanor is a young wife and mother who is struggling to cope with her many responsibilities; Bea is happy being single—or so she lets people think; and Karen is a psychiatrist who, despite the secrets in her past, considers herself the anchor of the group.

But when she takes on a new patient with issues she just can’t quite put her finger on, she begins to realize she may have put her dearest friends in danger. Because her patient knows more about these three women than anyone outside their circle possible could. Or should…

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Jenny Blackhurst, but it certainly won't be the last. I was completely mesmerized from the very opening chapter and had a hard time putting this one down!

This is one fast-paced, crazy, twisted psychological thriller that had me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going on, what was going to happen next, and how it was all going to play out in the end. You know something bad is going to happen - it's hinted at all along - so there is this sense of foreboding that is there all along, and at times, it really gets under your skin! And this just adds to the tension and suspense - I just couldn't put the book down and read it in two sittings.

The characters are so dynamic and whether you like them or not, you just want to know what is going on with them, why the things that are happening to them are happening, and who is really behind them. This is an intimate look at friendship and how it can come unraveled by one loose thread. I had my guesses as to who was behind everything - and this changed a few times - but WOW, I certainly did not put it all together in the end. That final twist really got me!

This book is full of surprises and the short chapters will have you flying through, frantically flipping those pages as you desperately try to figure out what is going on. It's complex and cleverly written and you will be totally engrossed with this one once you start it, so be forewarned! I cannot wait to read more from this author...she certainly knows how to hook a reader!!!


Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Review: Crazy Easy Vegan Desserts by Heather Saffer

Title: Crazy Easy Vegan Desserts
Author: Heather Saffer
Published: April 2018, Sterling Epicure
Format: Hardcover, 128 pages
Source: Publisher via Get Red PR

Reboot dessert with these 75 gluten-free and vegan treats!

Just because you’re vegan and gluten-free doesn’t mean you can’t indulge! With these 75 recipes, Heather Saffer reinvents your favorite desserts—and they’re super-simple to make and irresistibly delicious. You’ll find treats that take less than 20 minutes to prepare, ones with only three basic ingredients, and others that require absolutely no baking at all. The mouthwatering choices range from Tiramisu Trifle, Cookies and Cream Donuts, and Salted Caramel Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes to Apple Pie Taquitos, Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake, and Chocolate Molten Cupcakes—so you’ll always have something to satisfy your sweet tooth.

My thoughts: One thing you might not know about me is that I love to bake...but being that it's just me and my husband, it's not something I get to do that often. And since we are "trying" to eat a cleaner, healthier diet these days, making all those sweet, sugary desserts isn't necessarily the best choice lately...until now!

Reviewing cookbooks isn't something I typically do - I think I've done it maybe once before, but I just couldn't resist getting my hands on this one...I mean first of all - just look at that cover! Isn't it drool-worthy? And while I may not follow a vegan diet, I am all about making healthier, cleaner choices in my diet and that goes for desserts, too - after all, I still need to find ways to satisfy that sweet-tooth somehow!

I really liked the layout of this cookbook - it's clean and inviting, and I loved the little insights into each recipe that Heather includes. Sometimes it's about the recipe itself and what sparked her to create it, sometimes it's about what she does with the creation once she's done with it. Either way, it adds a little personality to the book. And I love how the book goes from easy recipes to very easy to crazy easy - it doesn't get much simpler than this, folks. And some of these recipes only call for a few ingredients!

I have only made one recipe (so far!) - the Banana Peanut Butter Cookies - and these can be shared with the dogs! I decided on this one because how could I not try out the recipe that would allow me to make something that would be for both me and my pups? This was a no-brainer...and it got a 2 thumbs up from all of us. Not only was it super-easy to make, but it only calls for 4 ingredients - bananas, peanut butter, oats and vanilla. This is definitely going to be a staple in my house moving forward!

I already have a bunch of recipes marked that I plan to make in the future - once I'm settled in my new house and all my baking paraphernalia is unpacked. Some of those recipes include: Cinnamon Sugar Cookies; Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies: Sugar Cookie Fruit "Pizzas"; Salted Caramel Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes; and the Mixed Berry Banana Cake. Don't they all sound delicious?

This is definitely going to be a cookbook I keep handy. Do you like to bake? Does this sound like something you would look into?


Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Review: The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Title:  The Secret to Southern Charm
Author: Kristy Woodson Harvey
Series: The Peachtree Bluff series, #2
Published: April 2018, Gallery Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 400 pages
Source: Author

Leaving fans “practically [begging] for a sequel” (Bookpage), critically acclaimed author Kristy Woodson Harvey returns with the second novel in her beloved Peachtree Bluff series, featuring a trio of sisters and their mother who discover a truth that will change not only the way they see themselves, but also how they fit together as a family.

After finding out her military husband is missing in action, middle sister Sloane’s world crumbles as her worst nightmare comes true. She can barely climb out of bed, much less summon the strength to be the parent her children deserve.

Her mother, Ansley, provides a much-needed respite as she puts her personal life on hold to help Sloane and her grandchildren wade through their new grief-stricken lives. But between caring for her own aging mother, her daughters, and her grandchildren, Ansley’s private worry is that secrets from her past will come to light.

But when Sloane’s sisters, Caroline and Emerson, remind Sloane that no matter what, she promised her husband she would carry on for their young sons, Sloane finds the support and courage she needs to chase her biggest dreams—and face her deepest fears. Taking a cue from her middle daughter, Ansley takes her own leap of faith and realizes that, after all this time, she might finally be able to have it all.

Harvey’s signature warmth and wit make this a charming and poignant story of first loves, missed opportunities, and second chances and proves that she is "the next major voice in Southern fiction” (Elin Hilderbrand, New York Times bestselling author).

My thoughts: Have I mentioned how much I adore Kristy Woodson Harvey yet? Have you had a chance to meet her in person? She is just as cute and charming as you can imagine and if you've had a chance to read her books yet, you can definitely see her personality coming off the pages. This is why I adore her books...this is why I jump at the opportunity to read and support her - she is good people, folks and she is truly a talented author. She will make you laugh and she will make you cry and by the time you finish one of her books, you will feel hope and compassion like no one else has made you feel.

I was so excited when I heard that Kristy was writing a series...she creates such vivid characters in her books and I was always so sad to leave them when I finished each of her books. But, luckily we don't have to do that with the gals in the Peachtree Bluff series. This second book picks up shortly after the first book, Slightly South of Simple, so I HIGHLY recommend reading that one first. Plus - you really want that introduction to the characters - you won't be disappointed.

This book packs an emotional punch like no other. It will have you shedding tears within the first few pages, but not to worry because you will also be laughing out loud shortly there-after. At one point, I was actually laughing through my tears. I think that's one of the things Kristy does very well in this book...she writes with such compassion and grace, yet there's this fluidity there that she can easily go from a very heavy and sad scene to a light-hearted and humorous scene quite effortlessly and naturally. It's very seamless and flows quite naturally, but it gets you from those very lows to the nice highs ever so effectively. 

What I also love is how Kristy allows us to see the perfectly imperfect world of her characters. These characters are real women that any of us can relate to and I think that's what makes this series so compelling. I could empathize with what Sloane was going through. While not having had gone through any of this myself, my husband was in the Navy years before we got married, so I can appreciate all she is going through...I don't know what I would do if he were still active. 

The relationships between the sisters and that of the mother-daughter relationships is at the heart of this book. And having two sisters, I can so appreciate this. While I don't live with my sisters, I do feel this bond with them, knowing that I would do anything for them, and have dropped things to help when help is needed. We do rally for each other - that bond is real and I feel that Kristy has really shown the true strength in that here in this series. 

And then there are the there are in any family. Ansley is keeping a major one from her daughters, and the girls are keeping one from their mother. Of course, secrets have a way of coming out before you are ready to share them...and that often presents more problems than it would have if you hadn't kept the secret in the first place! But where would the fun in that be?

I am so looking forward to the next book in this series...a few developments occurred that will guide that book, and of course we will finally get Emerson's story, but I love that no matter who's side we get with Ansley, all the girls factor into the overall story. And that is what I love about the way this series is written!

 Books in this series: 
  1. Slightly South of Simple
  2. The Secret to Southern Charm
  3. ???
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