Review

The Lights of Sugarberry Cove. Heather Webber

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Published: Macmillan-Tor/Forge Books
Date: 20th July 2021
Source: Avon Publicist via NetGalley

Sadie Way Scott has been avoiding her family and hometown of Sugarberry Cove, Alabama, since she nearly drowned in the lake just outside her mother’s B&B. Eight years later, Sadie is the host of a much-loved show about southern cooking and family, but despite her success, she wonders why she was saved. What is she supposed to do?

Sadie’s sister, Leala Clare, is still haunted by the guilt she feels over the night her sister almost died. Now, at a crossroads in her marriage, Leala has everything she ever thought she wanted—so why is she so unhappy?

When their mother suffers a minor heart attack just before Sugarberry Cove’s famous water lantern festival, the two sisters come home to run the inn while she recovers.

The Lights of Sugarberry Cove by Heather Webber is a sweet read. Well it is set in Sugarberry Cove after all!

It’s about a mother and her two daughters told from the two daughters point of view. Sadie and Leala. All three are in hard places of various kinds and it takes coming together to sort out all the grief and events that have walled them off from each other and love.

There is a variety of characters who all play there part in making this story a heart warming one with moments of grief. I especially loved the wisdom of Uncle Camp and the child joy of Tucker.

And is has a smidgeon or more of magical realism, something I am a little partial to. I didn’t see how the final twist of this aspect was going to turn out but I loved it.

Family, found family, guilt, grief and love all mingle to make this a book I was sorry to see the ending arrive.

Review

The One You Are With

The One You're With

Published: Thomas Nelson Fiction
Date: 6th July 2021
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

High-school sweethearts Mac and Edie Swan lead a seemingly picture-perfect life in the sleepy-sweet community of Oak Hill, near Mobile, Alabama. Edie is a respected interior designer, Mac is a beloved pediatrician, and they have two great kids and a historic home on tree-lined Linden Avenue. From the outside, the Swan family is the definition of “the good life.” And life is good—mostly. Until a young woman walks into Mac’s office one day. A young woman whose very existence threatens all Mac and Edie have built and all they think they know about each other.

Nineteen years after a summer apart, with a family and established lives and careers, the past that Mac and Edie thought they left behind has come back to greet them. For the first time, constants in their lives are called into question: their roles as parents, their reputation as upstanding members of the community, and the very foundations of their marriage. 

As I read into the first couple of chapters I found myself hooked into the easy flow of the story. It opens with Mac’s point of view and then moves to Edie’s one. It also goes back and forwards from one summer a number of years ago and the current day.

I really felt on Mac’s side a lot of the time, I was a little impatient with Edie because I felt she should own her own stuff sooner! However I hung in there with her and liked how she eventually figured it all out.

This story explores what happens in a good marriage when something pops up that really rattles the cage. They are great parents and very good members of the community but now they are asked to stretch. To absorb and grow from what presents itself.

I found myself smiling and laughing at times especially there in the last chapter. It was a satisfying, thought provoking read. Happy to have read it.

Book Connections

Five Five Star Reads.

We are at the end of June, the first six months of the year completed. I decided to look back at the books that just struck a chord with me. I will have had more than five five star books, but out of those what just made my heart so happy.  I am a contemporary fiction reader mainly, so those kind of books are more likely to make this list.

Next week I’ll choose five 4 star reads from my list of the 67 books I have completed so far. That will be way more difficult as I have a lot of them!  Audiobooks will be another week, although they are included in the 67!

book coverI read this back in February. It is by Australian author Fiona Lowe. I thought the issues she explored, and the eclectic cast of characters and the challenges they faced were very relevant. One I will most certainly reread. When I can still remember a book I read back in February its a good sign!!

book coverDifferent but so entertaining. I thought ‘really weird’ as I began but soon I was really cheering for all the wacky characters. Plenty of family drama and little surprises. Sunshine and her daughter Auri are just beautiful. Quincy and Levi giving them a shout out too. The whole town actually and the mystery of the missing deputy – priceless. Really looking forward to reading the next one which publishes soon.

book coverWell this is a new tack in a series I’ve loved and I love the new adventures. It’s full of great characters, political shenanigans, (notice the cover – The White House) police procedural and family love. Look I’ll say it simply – I am addicted. I wanted to avoid putting in my top five because I am so addicted, but … it has to go in!

book coverAnd my top historical read of the last six months. It is a beautifully written story of wartime London and the people who faced such hard times during all the bombing that went on. And a bookshop – don’t forget a bookshop!

bookcoverI tossed up between this book The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews and The House Guests by Emilie Richards. But because I have just reviewed the latter five star read I choose The Newcomer. I like most books when someone is on the run with a child in tow. ( I was going to write toe but didn’t seem right until I got the visual). Anyway there is mystery and suspense, eclectic characters and just a good read.

Okay, would love to hear from you of one five star read from the first six months! I might add to my groaning TBR pile!

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Review

A Home Like Ours. Fiona Lowe

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Published: Harlequin – Australia

Date: March 3rd 2021.

Source: Publisher via NetGalley

A Home Like Ours is set in a small fictional town in Victoria, Australia. It’s what I’d call an issues driven book. It’s full of them! It is also filled with a wonderfully  eclectic range of characters. Many of them I fell for, and of course some of them are just not ready for redemption yet. We can always hope change one day might be possible! I mention a few of the central characters below who experience displacement of one kind or another and do grow through it, largely because of the support of others in the town and their own resilience.

The plot centres around a community garden, a group of women who want to keep it going and to admit those who others don’t “approve”. And there are some dastardly councillors who want to sell a plot of land adjacent to the garden to big developers. Of course lining their own pockets in doing so.

Helen is the caretaker of the garden – she has had a tough life, she is in her mid-fifties and while educated has found it difficult to find a job in the past. She also knows first hand what homelessness is all about. I loved spiky, tough talking, take no nonsense Helen. And its a matter of can she have her heart opened again and embrace  a second and better life.

Tara is a younger person with two children and a family owned business in town. She is about to find out what its like to deal with a big challenge and who her friends really are. I really felt for Tara and her husband Jon. I liked how their story develops.

Jade is a young single mother – to Milo. She lives on a benefit and if I thought Helen was spiky well Jade can give her a run for her money. Jade has had a tough life, however she is about to find out what trusting and opening up to new possibilities are all about.

Oh, I forgot to mention all of the above are white! Because in town there are also a number of refugees with pasts that none of us have ever had to live through and when they come to their new country everything is not as rosy as promised. 

You can’t read this book and remain detached from all the issues presented. Mainly I think because they are so universal and we know them in our own towns. The book asks us to examine our own hearts. To name a few – homelessness, white privilege, prejudice towards those who are different, struggling single mothers, abusive partners, ageism, the sudden onset of a challenging disease.

Coupled with all that is true love and trust, hope, belief in what can be changed and how we can build a better place by being open to and learning about differences. And what true friendship looks like.

Fiona Lowe has written a rich, thought provoking book that will long remain with me.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Review

Life on Loan. Ashley Farley

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Published: Lake Union
Date:October 8th 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

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I’ve never read a book by Ashley Farley, but the cover and the book blurb made me suspect this kind of story would be for me. And I must say I was right.

It’s about two women who meet many years after the years in college as friends. It is now the mid years for them when many reassess their priorities and life and often make changes. After all, we have one life and its important to be happy and have that deep down gut feel what we do and who we are is just right.

Lena has had it with her husband and daughter, she has let them walk all over her, suddenly she has had enough and leaves, deciding to take a month to be by herself and sort herself out.

Olivia’s marriage ended a few years back, after a revelation from her husband. She has been running a successful blog, but she is tired of the unnecessary drama of certain aspects of it, and besides she wants to write and test her talents, could she write a novel?

Meeting at an airport they make the decision to exchange places for a month and see where life leads. Olivia finds herself in a lovely cottage by the river right next door to Alastair, a life long friend of Lena’s. He has been through the trauma of loosing his wife and is in a bit of a black hole.  Lena on the other hand finds herself in Charleston and soon awakens in her the delight she has for photography. However this also leads her down some unexpected paths.

I thoroughly enjoyed the characters and their explorations and taking a second look at their lives. They will find new focus,  a little romance, family bonding and deepening friendships.

I will certainly look out in the future for more books from Ashley Farley.

Review

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

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Publisher: Graydon House – Harlequin
Date: 19th March 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

 

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In The Things I Cannot Say Kelly Rimmer as penned a very powerful dual time line story.

In one time space we are taken to Poland in the early times of Nazi occupation during WW2 and to the story of Alina and Tomasz and their families. Those times were horrific and yet the bravery of these people stand out as they dealt with the terror.

In the present we have Alice and Wade and their two children – one very intelligent and one who is on the autism spectrum. The stresses in the family are well depicted and felt very real. When Alice is asked by her grandmother to return to Poland to seek information about what happened back then and who is there now, it is a huge challenge for her.

The dual time lines worked well. While I am not a huge fan of dual time lines, I have to admit the way the details were spread throughout the story was very effective.  I was sucked into both stories – one shocking and so hard to read, one “easier” but with its own difficulties.  And always such love.

Its very emotional and tissues were needed! I came to love and admire all the characters and to be in awe of the story telling power of Kelly Rimmer.

Review

Lost Without You by Rachael Johns

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Publisher: Harlequin Australia
Date: October 29th 2018
Format:  Trade Paperback
Source: Own book
Rating

 

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Lost Without You by Rachael Johns is a roller coaster ride of family, friendship, a secret, loss, guilt and love.

Rebecca is a mother to Paige and wife of Hugh. Early on she is faced with a serious health issue that throws her family into some stress. Evaluating her life Rebecca decides to look back and open a door in her life she has hidden away.  Her daughter is about to go down the marriage path and has a really lovely partner Sol. So Paige decides she wants to find her mother’s wedding dress and be married in it.

This search leads her to Josie and Nic – married and Josie is not coping with the miscarriages she has had to endure. However the two girls become friends and everything there seems to be good.

Clara is another person in the mix – she nurses Rebecca when she is in hospital and also helps Josie out with her grief.

When Rebecca’s secret is revealed everyone is thrown out of their comfort zones. Some become judgemental and angry and rifts occur. And it also turns out that all the women’s lives are more intertwined than first thought.

I felt for them all but most of all for Rebecca because of the way others turned on her. I understand that we can get hurt and angry with family members so I could see where they were coming from, but all the way through I was on her side!

It was a very good read,  possibly some links were a little too coincidental, however it was story with challenging issues that were well explored.

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Review

A Thousand Roads Home by Carmel Harrington

book coverPublished: HarperCollins
Date: October 2018
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages: 440
Genre: Mainstream Fiction
Source: Library
Rating of book
Goodreads callout

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Firstly thank you to Trish from Between My Lines who intrigued me with her review of A Thousand Roads Home by Irish author Carmel Harrington.  It is the first book I have read by this author and I do believe I have discovered another author I will want to read more from.

This book grabbed me by the heart and I just had to keep reading it, it engaged me from the first page and didn’t let me go all the way through. When I had finished it I didn’t want to have finished it. I loved all the characters, cheered when things when well for them, chuckled sometimes and reached for the tissues quite often!

The story explores homelessness, having Asperger’s syndrome, being a single parent, being lost and in grief and so much more. And… it shows how one person with their kindness and compassion can change the world one person at a time.

It is set in Ireland and very authentically Irish, but… it is an universal story and has issues we can all relate to one way or another. If you can, read it – it is indeed “warm, powerful and unforgettable.”

Read Trish’s review here just to check it out! I haven’t gone into details, let’s just say I won’t ever forget it.

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For USA readers this will be published there in June 2019.

Over The Teacups, Review

The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village by Joanna Nell.

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book cover Why?  I picked this up because it is a book for the Books With Heart online book club. It has as its main focus a 79 1/2  year old woman, and that also covers a challenge to read a book with a  main character over 60.

Plot  Peggy lives in a single bedroom apartment with her old dog Basil. Life is rather blah until a long time friend arrives to jazz her up. And there are a couple of surprising revelations there! Peggy also has her eye on a neighbour – Brian, whom she rather fancies. So we follow the health struggles, the life challenges, the family ups and downs, until we arrive at the other side and Peggy is almost a new woman.

What Appeals to me? This story gives us a look in on the wonderful people who are often invisible to the eye. Is being elderly a time to sit and be boring? Or is it a time when life can be lived to the full – and why not? Peggy is very real and her desire for love and friendship is a basic need. With a little confidence she is going to bring out the Smart in her. This book gives insight from the older person’s point of view. Joanna Nell is a doctor, so she brings to the story wisdom and understanding.

And so… I think this is a book that would count as exploring diversity – of age! Well done Joanna Nell. It was the Books with Heart book for November and I enjoyed reading and contributing to the discussions about it during the week.

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Over The Teacups, Review

Over the Teacups #10 with Kristan Higgins and Cathy Lamb

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book coverWhy? I like any book by Kristan Higgins so I was absolutely keen to read this one.

Plot This is about three friends who have weight issues and body image issues – their struggles and their joys. Their families and loves.

What Appeals to me? An extremely well written book that explores hugely important themes in today’s world. Like body image, attitudes around that, other people’s kindness and unkindness. It’s about family struggles too. Parenting.

This book is so sad and so funny at various spots.

It took me  a little while to like the woman characters, but they grew on me. I It really isn’t an easy book to read in some ways, its confrontative.

And so… I think its an extremely important book, and would be excellent as a book club read. So much to talk about you’d need a few sessions!

 

book coverWhy? I thoroughly enjoy any book ever written by Cathy Lamb. Thanks to a blogger I was introduced to her books. This one was one I had that I hadn’t read, its like saving up something special.

Plot  Boss Mom Jaden has loved her son Tate since he was born. Born to her sister Brooke (a drug addict). Tate has a large head, so he has had a good deal of teasing to deal with. But… he is the most loveable of characters. Jaden takes him as her own when Brooke walks out after his birth. Now he is seventeen and he so wants to fly, to play basketball, to be accepted by other. And Jaden is so against that because a knock to the head could cause serious problems for Jaden because he has a shunt going from his brain to his heart.

What Appeals to me? I totally love the characters that Cathy Lamb conjures up. They are so full of warmth and feeling. And humour! Irreverent humour. I love the way she explores and shares someone who is different and so fully a wonderful human being.  It invites us to be open and kind and accepting and really celebratory of all the differences in people.

And so… I do have one more book to read by Cathy Lamb, her one that is due out on the 30th of October titled The Man She Married. I don’t even know what its about. It doesn’t matter. Its written by Cathy Lamb. That’s all I need to know.