Book Review: 337 by M. Jonathan Lee

I was provided with a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Please note that the double-ended upside-down opening for this book is available in books ordered in hard copy from UK booksellers only.

About the Book:

337 follows the life of Samuel Darte whose mother vanished when he was in his teens. It was his brother, Tom who found her wedding ring on the kitchen table along with the note. While their father pays the price of his mother’s disappearance, Sam learns that his long-estranged Gramma is living out her last days in a nursing home nearby. Keen to learn about what really happened that day and realising the importance of how little time there is, he visits her to finally get the truth. Soon it’ll be too late and the family secrets will be lost forever. Reduced to ashes. But in a story like this, nothing is as it seems.

My Thoughts:

A wonderfully written novel, the story follows Sam as he goes through the motions of living every day. However, not everything is at it seems, and this is a constant theme running in the background of the plot.

Sam’s mother vanished during his teens leaving behind a letter and her rings. We do not know whether she simply decided to leave one day or something more serious happened. In the current day, Sam reconnects with his Grandmother whom he has not seen or spoken to in years in an attempt at reconciliation and a final attempt to solve the mystery behind his mother’s disappearance. We are introduced to a variety of characters including his younger brother, his father, about whom we gradually learn things, his wife, from whom he is now separated and finally his grandmother, old and dying. There are so many layers to this story and the characters that the reader is always forced to stop and contemplate the goings-on.

The descriptions are rich and vivid bringing the place and characters to life. There is love and loss interspersed with the trauma Sam and his brother faced when they were younger. Having dealt with so much in life, Sam constantly talks about the advice his therapist has provided which are very much applicable in some way to all of us. The chapters are short and easy to read and the scenes with Sam and his grandmother are beautifully written with a lot of unspoken emotions in them.

This latest book by the author is a pleasure to read and though it raises many questions that ensure the reader is kept engaged long after finishing the book. This book is a must read!

Book Review: Hinterland by L.M. Brown

I was provided with a free copy of the book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book:

Hinterland

 

Nicholas Giovanni’s life revolves around his five-year old daughter Kate. When he isn’t driving his taxi, he is taking care of her and her mother Kathleen, whose last involuntary admission to hospital was before Kate was born. When his childhood best friend, Ina, returns next door, tensions rise in the house. Already unstable, Kathleen suspicions of Ina and Nicholas grow until a day of violence ensues and Kathleen disappears.

Kate’s life is shattered by her mother’s disappearance. No-one will tell her where Kathleen is. Although Ina helps to take care of Kate, Nicholas keeps her at arm’s length. He cannot bring himself to tell the truth about Kathleen’s last day, until Kate runs away, and he realizes his silence has torn everyone apart. To find Kate and to keep Ina in his life, there are truths he must face, if it’s not too late.

My Thoughts:

Hinterland is a story of one family’s experience with mental illness as well as the choices they make and the subsequent consequences. The main protagonist Nicholas is a devoted father to his daughter Kate and takes care of her mother Kathleen. Initially we are introduced to these three characters and their neighbor, an elder woman named Tilly. She has known Nicholas since his youth. Nicholas has a strained relationship with Kathleen and we can see how that indirectly affects Kate, a five year old child at the time the story begins. We also follow along as Nicholas maneuvers his job as a taxi driver and taking care of his daughter, shielding her from anything bad as only a loving parent can do.

As the story progress, we are introduced to Ina, Tilly’s daughter and someone Nicholas has always had feelings for. With her arrival, things are set in motion as tempers run high, jealousy creeps in, doubts arise. This leads to one incident that changes all their lives. The author’s style of writing is unique and something I have not come upon very often. She leaves a lot unsaid and gives space for the reader to read between the lines and come up with their own interpretation. It’s an interesting way of handling the plot.

The characters are intriguing and I enjoyed reading about them. However, Nicholas was quite confusing and at times I did not like him. In addition, we observe as Kate grows up from a shy five year old to a rebellious teenager who does not know the truth about her mother or why she just disappears one day never to be seen again. This forms the crux of the plot leading to strained relationships and the family’s struggle to deal with the absence of Kathleen but the constant reminder that she exists/existed. I enjoyed reading about Ina and the support she provides in a quiet manner.

Though the story is slow in the first half, it picks up pace in the second half leading to an interesting open ended finish. This gives the reader space to imagine the kind of ending they want for the characters. The author has handled the concept of mental illness very well, bringing about an awareness among the readers of it’s effects on the person dealing with it as well as the effect on the people around. Even though I do have some mixed feelings about this book, I did enjoy reading it. It was a roller-coaster of emotions and finally, the truth always comes out! This book is well worth the read!

Book Review: Return to Virgin River (Virgin River #19) by Robyn Carr

I received an ARC of the book through NetGalley. The book was released on 13th October 2020.

About the Book:

Robyn Carr returns to the beloved town of Virgin River with a brand new story about fresh starts, new friends and the magic of Christmas.Return to Virgin River (Virgin River, #19)
Struggling with grief after the death of her mother, successful author Kaylee Sloan needs a distraction, to come to terms with life and meet her looming deadline.

With Christmas approaching, Kaylee rents a cabin in Virgin River. She knows the isolation will help her writing and as she drives north through the mountains she immediately feels inspired. Until she arrives at a building that has just gone up in flames. Devastated, she heads to Jack’s Bar to plan her next steps. The local bar is the heart of the town and once she crosses the threshold, she’s surprised to be embraced by people who are more than willing to help a stranger in need.

Welcomed by those in Virgin River, Kaylee starts to see her life in a new light. And as she becomes more involved in the town and the people in it, especially local artist and dog trainer Landry Moore, Kaylee realises she may have found her peace. As Christmas approaches, Kaylee’s dread turns to wonder. Because there’s no better place to mend a broken heart than Virgin River.

My Thoughts:

Author Robyn Carr takes us back to Virgin River with Kaylee Sloan. For fans of the book/TV series, it is indeed a welcome trip down memory lane! We meet a hoard of characters, some familiar and some not so familiar, but it feels just about right!

The story follows Kaylee Sloan as she decides to move to Virgin River for a few months for a fresh start and some fresh perspective to help with her writing. Dealing with the loss of her mother, she is not just dealing with the loss of a parent, but also her best friend and confidante. This book takes us on a journey of acceptance and togetherness. The people of Virgin River come together to help Kaylee when bad luck strikes just as she reaches the cabin she was renting. It is wonderful to meet many of the characters again and see where they lives are now. A warm welcome, a few kind words and the right kind of support can do wonders to a person grieving and lonely.

What follows is the usual mix of discovery and romance as Kaylee strives to mend, finish her novel and just feel better. The story is well-written and a simple read. The book can be finished in one sitting depending on the reader’s time. A wonderful heart-felt story, this will tug at the reader’s heartstrings and take us on an emotional rollercoaster. Once again Robyn Carr brings us happiness and nostalgia all in one neat package!

Book Review: Thorne Bay (An Alaskan Packs Novel Book 1) by Jeanine Croft

I downloaded a free auto approved copy of this book via NetGalley.

I picked it up based on the synopsis which seemed quite interesting. Read on to know my thoughts.

About the Book:

Thorne Bay (An Alaskan Packs Novel Book 1)

Disillusioned and aimless, Evan Spencer makes a pact with herself. To follow wherever the finger of destiny points. Even if that means heading to some obscure Alaskan town she’s never heard of. A place where the primal beauty of the backwoods is rivaled only by a certain pair of steely green eyes.

But Thorne Bay has a dark side. It’s not just rumors and wary gazes that shadow the darkly alluring Tristan and his reclusive family. Her search for self, as it turns out, leads to a discovery of werewolves and a fight for survival. Alaska might just leave an indelible mark. Love and Death will leave her changed forever.

My Thoughts:

The story follows Evan Spencer as she makes a drastic move to try to follow her destiny and find her place in the world. She moves away from her family to Alaska in the hopes of finding herself and her independence. On the way we meet Tristan who is extremely good-looking, but shrouded in mystery along with his family. Not bothered by rumors, or perhaps eager to discover the truth by herself, Evan forges a friendship with Tristan that seems to be more than that. As their bond develops, we meet some of the people Evan works with and some of the people from Tristan’s family.

The author maintains a level of intrigue around Tristan and drops enough hints without directly giving way to the idea of werewolves. Though the main characters are well developed, some of the supporting characters like Nicole and Dean are just touched upon. It would have been nice to have some more background on them, some insights into their lives before Evan turned up in Alaska and this entire plot line was set in motion. Some horrors of the werewolf world and the laws that govern their existence are brought in and this adds context, but could have been addressed in-depth to add to the storyline.

Some parts of the story are quite normal and expected and the love story that develops between our two main characters is wonderful to read about. I enjoyed the way the author approached the supernatural and the punny banter between Evan and Tristan.

Overall however, I would say that this is definitely an enjoyable and worthwhile read!

Book Review: Midnight Sun (The Twilight Saga #5) by Stephenie Meyer

About the Book:

Midnight Sun (Twilight, #5)

It’s here! Number one bestselling author Stephenie Meyer makes a triumphant return to the world of Twilight with this highly-anticipated companion; the iconic love story of Bella and Edward told from the vampire’s point of view.

When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella’s side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward’s version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward’s eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward’s past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?

In Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer transports us back to a world that has captivated millions of readers and brings us an epic novel about the profound pleasures and devastating consequences of immortal love.

My Thoughts:

The much awaited Midnight Sun is here! Being a fan of the Twilight book series, I was quite interested in reading this book. The chance to get a glimpse into Edward’s complex mind and learn about his background and life was too good to pass up.

The book was a pleasant surprise. It sticks to the same story line as Twilight, but we get a complete view of the events that happened prior to Bella arriving in Forks, as well as those that happened after. Edward’s story and his thoughts are intriguing, considering that he thinks of so many things at a time. However, at times, his thoughts get repetitive and this gets a little bit annoying. A lot of the story is written in the style of an internal monologue with dialogue’s thrown in where necessary.

Even though we know the story, the different view point adds a lot of value to the original one, giving us insights into what happened in the background and how the characters ended up where they are. We come to know how the Cullen family found each other and their ideas, emotions, thoughts from Edward’s point of view, as he effortlessly uses his gift. As always, Stephanie Meyer brings to us a well-written novel and takes us back to interact with our favorite characters.

Overall, this story is a good read for fans of the series. Those who have not read the series, you can read this as a standalone, but it would be better to read Twilight first.

Book Review: Lucy’s Last Chance by Elle Sweet

About the Book:

Lucy was a high-powered attorney who had a nervous breakdown after her husband left her. Broken, she came to the town of Moonshire Bay to start over as a yoga instructor; determined to find inner peace in all things this time around.

Brant is running for Mayor and running after Lucy, but she is scared of his drive and need for success.

Can Lucy realize she’s stronger than she thinks and take a chance on love?

My Thoughts:

Lucy’s Last Chance is a very sweet and simple story that follows Lucy, a yoga instructor at Moonshire Bay. Lucy has moved away from the big city and her career as a high-powered attorney. Additionally, she is in the midst of a divorce and hence the need to get away and start over. As she settles into her new life in this town, she is loved by everyone. Her classes are fun and well received.

As the story progresses, we are introduced to Brant. Brant is running for mayor and shows a great deal of interest in Lucy. As time passes, Lucy starts to consider the possibility of a relationship with Brant. The story then follows the two as they start to tread the waters of a budding relationship. The author keeps the story and the pace simple and straightforward. However, even though some parts of the story may become predictable, the reader is sure to enjoy this book!

I definitely enjoyed reading about Lucy and how she learns to trust again, how she learns to forgive and move on. Her strength and tenacity are inspiring.

A huge thank you to Damppebbles book blog for organizing this promotional tour and for giving me a chance to be a part of it.

Book Review: Summer at Hope Haven (Dune Island #1) by Kristin Harper

I received a copy of the book via NetGalley and Bookouture. Read on to know my thoughts on the book.

About the Book:

Summer at Hope Haven (Dune Island #1)

Making her way up the cedar-lined driveway, tears fill her eyes at the sight of the cottage’s faded trim and peeling turquoise shutters. Taking a deep breath, she grasps the heart-shaped iron door handle and steps inside the once-happy childhood home she’s been avoiding. It is time to face up to the past…

When Emily’s fiancé walks out on her while she’s still grieving the loss of her family in a terrible accident, she escapes back to Hope Haven on the remote Dune Island, where her family vacationed every summer. Emily hopes that fixing up the house will also mend her broken heart, but the cottage holds more than just bittersweet childhood memories. Emptying her father’s antique writing desk, Emily finds a letter that reveals a devastating secret about her parents.

With a head full of questions that can never be answered, it seems like returning to the island was the worst decision Emily ever made… until she meets Lucas Socorro, saltwater dripping from his dark curls after a surf session. As they take long walks on the soft sand, and talk late into the firefly-lit night, Emily wonders if Dr Luke—as the kids in the hospital call him—could be the one to help her heal. With Luke holding her hand, delving into her family’s painful past is a little easier.

Painting the gloomy cottage walls the colour of seashells, and revamping her grandmother’s flea-market furniture, Emily starts to feel she might call Dune Island home for good—and that she could build that home right here with Luke. But when Emily’s family secret spreads through a network of local gossips, her fragile heart breaks all over again. Luke is the only one who could have started the rumours. Was she wrong to trust him so easily?

As the sun sets behind the dunes, Emily has a difficult decision to make. Does she pack her bags and leave the island for good? Or take a risk that Hope Haven has everything she’s been looking for?

A beautiful and emotional read that will make you long to feel the sand beneath your feet. Perfect for fans of Nancy Thayer, Tracy Brogan and Mary Alice Monroe.

My Thoughts:

The book introduces us to Emily, the main protagonist dealing with the loss of her family in a terrible accident and a broken engagement. To get away, Emily comes down to Hope Haven, to stay at the house her family vacationed at every summer. Surrounded by many memories and in the midst of discovering new secrets about her parents, Emily is once again shattered as she struggles to reconcile the knowledge she has of her parents and the new information she finds. In the midst of all this, she leans on her bonds with her childhood friend and his wife while trying to forge new with Lucas Socorro, a doctor at the hospital and the people at Dune Island.

As the story progresses, the reader is thrown into the midst of Emily’s emotional turmoil as she struggles to cope. The story is well-written and is filled with some very well crafted characters. They are endearing and relatable and fun to read about. The setting is beautiful and while our characters take long strolls along the beach, it is easy for the reader to imagine themselves doing the same thing.

The story is quite enjoyable and as Emily becomes stronger and accepts her life, the secrets, the people at Dune Island, she also starts to consider opening herself up to love. This is a great read for all the romance fans out there!

Book Blast: Lucy’s Last Chance by Elle Sweet

Book Blurb:

Lucy was a high-powered attorney who had a nervous breakdown after her husband left her. Broken, she came to the town of Moonshire Bay to start over as a yoga instructor; determined to find inner peace in all things this time around.

Brant is running for Mayor and running after Lucy, but she is scared of his drive and need for success.

Can Lucy realize she’s stronger than she thinks and take a chance on love?

About Elle Sweet:

Elle Sweet is the pen name of mystery author Laina Turner.

I started writing ten years ago, and it was always my intent and desire to write romance. However, in my first book, someone died. It just happened and turned the romance into a mystery.

Twenty-some books later, and I decided enough was enough. I was going to do what I’d initially set out to do at the start of my writing journey. Write a book where no one died (It’s not as easy as you think).

I can’t tell you how much fun I had writing Finding Rachel and the three others set in the small town of Moonshire Bay. Finding Rachel is out now and Ari’s Adventure will release in spring of 2020 with the third book set to follow in the early summer of 2020.

How did I come up with my pen name? Elle for the “L” in Laina and Sweet was my grandfather’s last name. I wanted something that had a story. I originally wanted to call myself LuluBell after a pet cow I once had, but the family shot that one down.

Born and raised in the midwest, I live in Indiana with my husband, three amazing children, and our dogs Duke and Macy.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laina_turner

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ElleSweetauthor/

Website: https://www.lainaturner.com/books/?cat=romance

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lainaturner/

Purchase Links:

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2P5Y0WZ

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/31368Nq

Google Books: https://bit.ly/3gaKddL

NOOK: https://bit.ly/30Y7QzR

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2X3cBa7

Publishing Information:

Published on 12th August 2020 in digital format

 

Book Review: The Best of Us (Sullivan’s Crossing #4) by Robyn Carr

About the Book:

The Best of Us (Sullivan's Crossing, #4)

In Sullivan’s Crossing, #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr has created a place where good people, powerful emotions, great humor and a healthy dose of common sense are the key ingredients to a happy life. Sullivan’s Crossing brings out the best in people. It’s a place you’ll want to visit again and again.

Dr. Leigh Culver loves practicing medicine in Timberlake, Colorado. It is a much-needed change of pace from her stressful life in Chicago. The only drawback is she misses her aunt Helen, the woman who raised her. But it’s time that Leigh has her independence, and she hopes the beauty of the Colorado wilderness will entice her aunt to visit often.

Helen Culver is an independent woman who lovingly raised her sister’s orphaned child. Now, with Leigh grown, it’s time for her to live life for herself. The retired teacher has become a successful mystery writer who loves to travel and intends to never experience winter again.

When Helen visits Leigh, she is surprised to find her niece still needs her, especially when it comes to sorting out her love life. But the biggest surprise comes when Leigh takes Helen out to Sullivan’s Crossing and Helen finds herself falling for the place and one special person. Helen and Leigh will each have to decide if they can open themselves up to love neither expected to find and seize the opportunity to live their best lives.

My Thoughts:

The Best of Us introduces us to Leigh and Helen, two wonderful women who share a very special bond. Having brought Leigh up, Helen tries to find her space, once her niece is all grown up. As Leigh tries to break away from her stressful life and deal with moving away from her aunt, Helen, we see that the both of them have to accept the change. The story is well written and we watch as the main characters interact with their new surroundings and the new people around them. They have to adapt to each other as adults and accept who they are now! The author shows us the importance of acceptance and maintaining relationships, especially those with family.

Once again we are back at Sullivan’s Crossing for another feel-good tale of love, good people and a lot of fun. This book is a must read for fans of romance novels!

Book Review: Keep Forever by Alexa Kingaard

 

Keep Forever
Alexa Kingaard
Published by: Acorn Publishing
Publication date: March 28th 2020
Genres: Historical Romance, Women’s Fiction

“Unlike some war stories that focus on intense, harsh and graphic depictions of post-combat trauma, this tale unfolds gently, like an Edna Ferber novel, spread across many decades, detailing the impact this soldier’s illness has on an entire family, including children and grandchildren. KEEP FOREVER is a wonderful, emotionally satisfying read that I highly recommend. ”
GARY SEIGEL, author of “Haskell Himself”

 

 

Paul O’Brien’s idyllic childhood in Southern California comes to a halt when his mother dies in the summer before his senior year of high school and a very different persona of his father emerges – isolating himself inside the house, turning to alcohol for comfort, and barely noticing his only child. Simultaneously, the war in Vietnam is sending shock waves around the world and young men from one coast to the other are being called upon to serve. Paul enlists in the Marines before receiving his draft notice.

Elizabeth Sutton is eager to gain some independence from her father’s old fashioned notions and looking forward to her first year in high school. At fifteen years old, tragedy strikes with the loss of both parents in an auto accident, turning her childhood into one of responsibility and worry overnight. The four siblings are scattered when her nine-year-old twin sisters are sent to live with their Aunt and Uncle on Nantucket Island, and Elizabeth is left behind in Boston with their grandmother. Her older brother, Sam, enlists in the Marines, eager to join the conflict a world away as opposed to dealing with the one unfolding at home.

A bond develops between Paul and Sam in Vietnam, and both are injured in a bloody battle that costs Sam his right hand and sets the stage for a lifetime of nightmares and sleepless nights for Paul. Matched by similar tragedies at a young age, Elizabeth and Paul’s first introduction by Sam upon their return from Vietnam is the beginning of friendship and love that survives five decades.

After marrying, welcoming their first child, and inheriting a small beach house, the couple adapts to their new surroundings, but distant memories of Vietnam continue to haunt Paul. In an era when veterans refuse to speak of their pain and the government denies that thousands of soldiers are coming home irreparably damaged, he is left to deal with the challenge of caring for his loved ones amidst his his erratic flashback episodes and moods. As their lives unravel from the lingering effects of PTSD, Elizabeth learns to accept the burden that Paul brought home, and together they make their own memories to keep forever.

Inspired By A True Story

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

Author Bio:

ALEXA KINGAARD, a California native, currently resides in Carlsbad and is the mother of a son and daughter who continue to be her biggest fans and cheerleaders.

October 13, 2011, was the day that changed her life forever when her ex-husband, a Vietnam veteran, took his life during a PTSD flashback episode. Inspired to share this tragedy that continues to rob husbands and wives of their spouses, children of their parents, mothers of their children, brothers and sisters of their siblings, and comrades of their friends, Kingaard relied on her own experiences to shed light on this crisis. The burden brought home is not partial to Vietnam, but is an insidious aftershock endured by combat veterans of all conflicts.

Kingaard continues to pursue her literary career, writing about nostalgia and the human condition, the common denominator of our lives.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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My Thoughts:

Keep Forever is a story that will take the rider on a roller coaster of emotions. It follows the lives of Paul and Sam as they navigate their way through being Marines and their short experience with War in Vietnam. We also follow Elizabeth, Sam’s sister as she tries to hold on to her emotions and childhood while dealing with the loss of her parents and the responsibility of her younger siblings. A very well-written story, Keep Forever will pull the reader in and make up experience everything along with the main characters. The happiness, the turmoil, the heart-wrenching sadness and the flicker of hope.

Considering that this story is inspired by a true story, it is all that more eye opening. The reader is exposed to the concept of PTSD, the possible causes and the effects it may have on the person experiencing it as well as the people around. If a person is suffering from it, their pain and sorrow is difficult to relate to, but for the family, it is even more difficult to handle. The author brings in a lot of perspective on the topic and handles the concept with delicate ease. The main characters are well rounded and very well thought out. I enjoyed reading about their lives, and it was a humbling experience. We are also given a glimpse into the circumstances that shaped the characters and made them who they are, the reasons behind their decisions and finally the consequences of these decisions. These form the crux of the plot.

I particularly enjoyed reading about Elizabeth and how she grows into a strong woman. She takes control of her life, takes care of her family and builds a new one with the man she loves. Even in the end, she manages to give him distance while maintaining normalcy to ensure that he never feels useless. Her delicate handling of things and her ability to understand or make and effort to understand her husband’s pain is what makes her a wonderful person.

This story is a must read for everyone, a way to try and understand the nightmares of war and how it affects us human beings!