Big Lies in a Small Town. Diane Chamberlain

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Published: St Martin’s Press
Date 14th January 2020
Source: Publisher via NetGalley


If you ever had any doubt that you must let go the past so that you can move into the future then this book will certainly convince you of it being so true.

Morgan Christopher has the huge task of restoring a mural painted by Anna Dale in 1940. Morgan has been unfairly in prison for the past year, because of a boyfriend who was a coward. This is an opportunity for her, although she knows nothing about restoring painting. Plus there is a time limit. And why did the well known artist Jesse Williams name her as the person who must do it?

Anna Dale has been given the task of painting the mural in Edenton  to hang in the post office. She moves there for awhile while she paints it so that she can get a feel for the place, its history and people. A few young students help her, Jesse among them. Anna has come from the north and is rather wondering of the racist ways still present here in this town and she is to run up against it in unpleasant ways.

The less said about the plot the better. It needs to unfold for the reader so that you have an opportunity to see it play out before your eyes. The story is told between Anna and Morgan. The chapters are short, so this time I could easily live with the dual time line. There was no time to miss one character because I was speedily back with her. As well, their stories of working on the mural and the mystery it presents links up so seamlessly.

I loved this book. It held me in its thrall all the way through. There is mystery, challenge, injustice, racism and violence – but not too much, just a taste. The characters of Anna and Morgan – nothing not to love. Jesse was another who in the ’40’s I cheered on. And his family.

All I can say is don’t miss out on this one. I wish it went on much further, but maybe Diane Chamberlain knows where to stop!


The Country Guesthouse by Robyn Carr

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Publisher: HQN – Mira
Date: 7th January 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley


The Country Guesthouse introduces us to Hannah, we meet her out near Sullivan’s Crossing escaping from a corporate team building event that just isn’t to her style. However the place beside the lake where it takes place is gorgeous and she tucks that away in her mind. It happens to belong to Owen Abrams, a photographer who travels a lot and rents his place out.

Hannah’s world is turned upside down when she finds herself the guardian of the totally grief stricken but totally adorable five year old Noah. Hannah’s friend has died and she has left Hannah to be Noah’s mother. Adusting to each other takes time and Hannah takes leave from work and decides to take a two week break out at the very same lake in the very same house the team building took place.

Only… Owen has had his next trip cancelled on him and he is going to be staying out in his studio. The best think out is that he has this Great Dane – Romeo and Romeo loves just about everybody, hence his name! And so the story develops, with some hiccups of course. We meet up again with some of the other inhabitants of Sullivan’s Crossing and the town and for this story Helen just can’t keep her nose out of things.

I loved this addition to the series, well when there is a child and a dog that are both so adorable there is a high chance that with excellent writing and plotting and wonderful characters this kind of book is going to be a big success with this reader. I was so disappointed to see the end speeding up to meet me!

I especially loved the quotes at the beginning of each chapter and the cover of the book is just so beautiful. Friendship, family, and big community spirit with genuine care for others made it a winner for me.


Book Connections, Review

Five Books with Connections to Self


Connect Five Friday.  A Friday link up that can be joined in on any day and begins again the next Friday. Post about a list of five bookish related topics/lists of your choice. Be creative and enjoy the process. If you want to know a little more read the introduction to it here.

When I was teaching one of this ways we helped young readers comprehend was to make connections to our own lives from the books we were reading. When I came across the first book in this list of five I realised how my own experience was helping me understand Anthony so I decided to look for some more connections to self in the books I read.

book coverIn this novel we meet a writer hiding ashamed from  one big mistake he made – he plagiarised from a little known author and he was dobbed* in by an “unknown source”. I know, immediately we judge him as a reader, we don’t like plagiarising, we see how it affects authors. But… suddenly I found myself remembering a little plagiarising I did myself as a thirteen year old. We had to write a description, I was under pressure just like Anthony, and I picked up a description of a cowboy from Zane Grey. Thank you Zane! Anyway of course the teacher didn’t buy it, I mean I am and was no Zane Grey. But I do remember the shame and I was cured of plagiarising! Of course as a teacher many years later I’d come to realise the value of mentor texts and how we can learn and model our writing on those writers who write wonderful sentences and descriptions! Anyway my small life experience brought to me some sympathy for this character Anthony and it turns out it wasn’t misplaced.

*British informal. [dob someone in] to tell someone in authority about something bad that another person has done.

book coverThis is the first book written by British author Lucilla Andrews – written in 1954. It is less a romance and rather a fascinating look at hospital nursing life in this era. It will be interesting to see how her writing develops as I read through her books in the order they were written. Who knew that prem babies were fed breast milk with a little brandy! Very realistic and worth reading although a little too much description. I connected to it because way back in the ’60’s I spent a year as a nurse aide in a maternity hospital. It was fascinating to see how things had moved on since 1954. For example after giving birth the women were carried down stairs on a stretcher to the ward after giving birth. At great cost to those carrying.  In my day of course they were wheeled back in a bed. Nowadays if they are at a hospital they are often on their way home a few hours later!

book cover Rival’s Break is a suspenseful cozy mystery sort of book, but what I connected to were the characters and the fact that some of them had quite Catholic connections and some Irish. Emma Sharpe one of the main characters – an FBI member and art expert once belonged to an order of nuns, and there is a Father Finian who became a priest after losing his wife and daughters in an accident. So with my own Catholic upbringing and a good dose of Irish in me I felt very at home in the book!


Book coverAs soon as I started The Country Guesthouse I was making connections. I was thinking of all those times we did things as a staff to build rapport and trust etc. The fall back the heroine had to make  to someone who couldn’t be trusted at work ( and she wasn’t caught!) I hated those team build times as much as Hannah. And then 5 year old Noah has lost his mother and doesn’t want to forget her. It reminded my of my nephew Max and the hard time he had and still does at the loss of his great grandpa when he was 5. And I loved and could identify with Owen’s love of a quiet life in a less populated area. Already I’ve stopped in the early parts of the book to reflect. So much so, my Kindle has turned off a few times while waiting for me to go on!

book coverMany readers I follow enjoyed this author and book so I wanted to try it out. I am growing in years and the characters in this book are experiencing many of the things I know about. They are a bit older than me, but not much and so their thoughts and feelings I can really identify with and it makes me stop and think, and admire their struggles and kindnesses, and their knowing that life is still for living and the great choices they make.  I really admired Frank and Lucille’s honesty with each other in this story and their acceptance of each other and the love and friendship they had for each other. Never too old! And I totally identify.

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The Little Bookshop on the Seine. Rebecca Raisin

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Published: HQN
Date: 7th January 2020
Source: Publicist via NetGalley


The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin is one in a series, however I hadn’t read any previous ones and found it could easily be read without former experience!

This is certainly a book for book lovers and those who would love to visit Paris. It has oodles of both. Sarah has come from her quiet, sleepy town in Connecticut and has swapped bookshops with her friend Sophie who has one in Paris. Sarah’s bookshop doesn’t really do well, but then she hates parting with any of the books! Sarah’s on the other hand is a bustling, busy shop.

All that is expected of Sarah to do in the busy Paris shop had my head reeling. I think hers must have been worse! Life goes at pace, and she is taken out of her small world as she sees the amazing art around her in Paris. It’s a pity though that the book must have been seen through its final stages before Notre Dame had its terrible fire.

Sarah  has to learn how to handle a rather odd staff, find out where some disappearing money is going  and to try and keep sales up so that Sophie is happy. She also has to believe in the man who says he loves her and works all over the world as a journalist, following the latest story as they arise. All big asks.

This is a story of Sarah stepping out into the unknown and different. Of it taking time for her to find her feet and feel that she is part of Paris and the people she meets up with, many of whom touch her heart and become good friends. And she learns to speak up and display her enthusiasm for all things Christmas. A touching, warm hearted story.


A Madness of Sunshine. Nalini Singh

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Publisher: Hachette Australia
Date: December 5th 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley


One chapter into a Madness of Sunshine I thought to myself “Nalini Singh has nailed it!”  What has she nailed? The setting – it is so west coast South Island New Zealand. Reading into it I got that same feeling within when I fly in from overseas and see the hills and I know I am back in “my place”. As well as drawing for us the picture of the atmospheric west coast in all its beauty she is also able to give us the darker side of it.  I also loved her use of Maori words, often she doesn’t give any translation – although  in other places where it might be more difficult to intuit the meaning she gives a little added hint.

It is a murder mystery, a thriller really. There is a murder and some possible cold cases. I hate being in suspense, I am the kind of reader who will peek at the ending, but this time I didn’t. I changed my mind a few times about who it was. Just when I made up my mind something was placed before me to  doubt that decision.  This is not a fast paced action novel but rather a painstaking step by step sorting through the gathering of details. With the type of murder and the culprit finally exposed I just thought it is so true and reminded me of recent court cases that have taken place in recent times here in New Zealand. Chilling and yet real.

Two of the main characters are in this small town with secrets and dark backgrounds of their own. We have Will who is a police officer who has come to this small west coast town. I very much liked his caring approach to those he was there to protect. He was an excellent detective but had a case go wrong on him. Anahera has returned to her home place after her husband has died. She escaped from Golden Cove many years ago. Her life experiences have contributed to making her into a strong, compassionate woman. Slowly Will and Anahera work together to bring peace and justice to this twisted situation. And they learn to trust again, forming a very positive relationship. But note, the relationship is not centre stage, it’s the murder and mystery that takes that.

It’s good! I do prefer Nalini Singh’s paranormal novels but … she has a talent for this kind of a story. I highly recommend it.

As an aside I was interested and delighted to see  New Zealand bookstores placing this book on their front tables. It has had good publicity on the radio as well. Nalini is a New York Times best selling author – but because paranormal is not widely read she goes under the radar. Her writing is so good she deserves to be to the forefront. I hope books like this raise her profile here!

A great review for this book can be found over at Caffeinated Reviewer – for the audiobook version. I notice Nalini Singh even included a quote from it in her recent newsletter.


Stay. Catherine Ryan Hyde

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Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Date: December 3rd 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley


Stay by Catherine Ryan Hyde tells the story of Lucas a fourteen year old boy with lots going on around him. His parents who yell at each other, his friend Connor next door who is morose and has family parental things going on as well. Lucas has a brother Roy, away in the war in Vietnam. And that’s not a pretty story. What is a boy to do? Out in the woods one day he meets some dogs by a cabin and runs with them daily. And so he meets the owner of the cabin – Zoe Dinsmore who has a whole tragic history he has to find out about.

Zoe is a rather prickly woman but… she knows things and does something neither Lucas’ or Connor’s parents do.  But that’s after Lucas does something for her.

The story is told by Lucas looking back at his life from the age of about sixty four. The story shows how Lucas has learned what is important in life, and throughout the story there are many places that are pithy little pointers about living a life with integrity.

The story explores friendship in many forms – same age and an older/younger person and brothers. It explores choices made, guilt and loss, people’s judgemental attitudes, and the awful effects of drugs and war.

It was  refreshing to be with Lucas  as he endeavours to understand his world around him. To experience his first girlfriend and be wise enough to see within to who she really is. To see how he cared and went the next step even when he was discouraged by others.

It is a heart warming read, with a theme of hope even in trying circumstances. Can the people Lucas comes to love stay, can he stay with what he can control and let be what he cannot. A thought provoking story.

Month in Review, Review

November Reading Wrap Up

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Total books read this month: 8

My lowest total for a month for a very long time. However it most likely fits into my new mindset of reading slower and not rushing a book.

Authors Come From

USA: 6
Ireland: 1
New Zealand 1

New to me authors:

Nan Rossiter
Betty Smith
Denise Hunter

Reading Challenge Update:

I haven’t moved ahead in the challenges and at this point that’s okay.  Challenges will mostly be a non happening for me in 2020. I think I have reached my fill! Maybe one or two though next year!  I am a goal oriented person but sometimes I think its good not to reach a goal and admit it!

Top Book for November

The Things I Should Have Told You. From Irish author Carmel Harrington. Another 5 star read from this author who now just can’t write fast enough for this reader. A grandad who dies leaves letters for his son and wife and two children to read and he organises so that they take a trip through Europe guided by his letters. The family has various issues and this trip is about to shake them up – in a good way.

I loved this book, the family – the journey – Pops and his letters. I read every word – no skimming. Its warm, funny, emotional and real. I am not a “let’s take a trip” kind of person but this was so inspiring. I loved the map at the beginning.

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Looking forward to reading in December

This review re- issue written by Emilie Richards book Runaway, the first of a romantic suspense trilogy set in New Orleans. Will be published in January. I love when favourite authors get the rights back to their books and it gives me an opportunity to explore books I never knew of to read. This involves a librarian who is searching for her missing sister.

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And a new book coming out by Robyn Carr

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Incoming Books for November


From NetGalley or Edelweiss

Linking up with Nicole and Feed Your Fiction Addiction



All Fired Up. Lori Foster. Blog Tour

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Publisher: Harlequin
Date: 19th November 2019
Source: Publicist  via NetGalley


All Fired Up by Lori Foster is part of a series. However it reads well as a stand alone, and soon draws the reader into the feisty Crews family.

Mitch comes to town looking to start anew, and link up with his two half brothers. It is news to them that they have another brother, and their reaction to Mitch is not what he expects. Jack and Brodie’s mother – Ros also relates to him in a way he doesn’t expect. For a long time he is bewildered by it all. To cap it all he finds himself very attracted to Charlotte, the woman who lives with Ros and is treated like a daughter and a sister.

Mitch has had a really hard life and very difficult upbringing. He shares the same father – Elliott with the two brothers and has had a very different experience with him. Mitch’s mother was a total hopeless case and Mitch had an upbringing you would not wish on your worst enemy. Now he is dealing with someone who is out to get him, in the most sinister of meanings. He has upset a drug dealer who is after him.

I loved this family, the feisty, independent women, the alpha males who were totally loved and ignored by their women. Animals play a large part in the story and my heart was totally stolen by Brute, Mitch’s dog. The only time I lost a few tears was a scene that had Brute in it. Dog extroadinaire.

Mitch shows that a tough upbringing doesn’t have to define you, that family can matter and stand with you and that you can be independent while being interdependent. A totally good story with a  very satisfactory ending. I am a sucker for them!


Lori Foster is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author with books from a variety of publishers, including Berkley/Jove, Kensington, St. Martin’s, Harlequin and Silhouette. Lori has been a recipient of the prestigious RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award for Series Romantic Fantasy, and for Contemporary Romance. For more about Lori, visit her Web site at

Facebook – @lorifoster      Goodreads
Twitter – @LoriLFoster       Instagram – @LoriFoster

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Lake Season. Denise Hunter. #TLCBookTours

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Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Date: 12th November 2019
Source: TLC Book Tours via NetGalley Banner



Lake Season is the first book in a new series by Denise Hunter set in Bluebell NC. A family of three – two sisters and a brother work to bring to reality their parents dream of opening a bed and breakfast place near a lake. Unfortunately their parents  never could realise the dream themselves as they lost their lives in an accident.

Molly the elder of the girls is a book lover and swoons whenever she hears the name of a certain male author. Unbeknown to her said author is struggling to meet his latest deadline and is in her town looking for a muse and inspiration. But… he keeps his identity secret and writes under a different name. Both of them have a few family issues, yet on the whole are well adjusted young people.

As they put the final touches to the house a letter from the sixties is found in the wall. (The building in one of its former lives was a Post Office). This letter sets Molly off wanting to find out about Lizzie and the man the letter was written to.  By this time Adam (the author) has arrived at the bed and breakfast and he helps. And so begins a journey that will led them to some surprising news and as well, along the way they grow as people.

So there is a pleasant setting, a mystery, some identity deception and kind warm hearted characters. The story pans out satisfactorily and of course – happily! Those looking for a gentle, heart warming romance would certainly enjoy this book.

Connect with Denise

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

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Other book reviews from the Tour.

Tuesday, November 12th: Bewitched Bookworms

And tomorrow

Thursday, November 14th: Run Wright


Meant to be Yours. Susan Mallery

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Date. 22nd October 2019
Source. Publisher via NetGalley


Meant to be Yours is #7 in Susan Mallery’s Happily Inc series. However it can easily be read as a stand alone, although I am sure readers of the series will be very happy to catch up with other previous characters.

Happily Inc is a town that has come to life because it caters for specialty destination weddings. In this book we meet Renee, who is one of the actual wedding coordinators. She helps plan all the details and sees it through to the end. She is a lovely down to earth person, except that she has a big hang up about her mother. She loves her very much but can’t cope with a special ability her mother has. Renee has decided that while she plans others weddings, marriage isn’t for her.

Jasper is a writer, ex military who has seen far too much for any human being and has been deeply changed by his war experiences. He believes he can never marry because he is far too damaged and won’t be good in a committed relationship.

They meet! And are about to have all their pre suppositions challenged!

I loved the pet aspect to this book, it added warmth and charm, It also challenged our two – Renee and Jasper to see things differently. I liked the friendship aspect to the story, the women were there for Renee, the men for Jasper – and that was something new for him, now he has friends to turn to. And the love story is sweet.

I wasn’t so enamoured by the wedding planning business. How many ways to add zest to a wedding! What’s wrong with plain ordinary! It bored me somewhat.  However this town has certainly found a way to form a community and make a living which is great.  For those who enjoy a small town romance.