“Cicada Summer”–Review

61TRNEC4GsL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_It’s never too late to start again…

Alex Proctor invests in and renovates old homes. She’s come upon many, rundown properties, yet she’s always believed that, no matter the house’s condition, there’s a story behind the walls of every home, that there’s beauty in it all. She enjoys the excitement of making properties a home again. Her latest project is a century-old house near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Because the house has been badly neglected, Alex knows the work is going to be challenging. Nevertheless, she has faith that it all will work out.

Within a few weeks, the cicadas are supposed to reappear after 17 years, which is also the time the repairs on the house should be finished and ready to sell. However, Alex stumbles upon one disaster and surprise after another, leaving her wondering if her hard work is even worth it all.

While working on the house, Alex finds random treasures hidden in the house, one of them including some carved initials which reveal a love story from long ago of Alex’s elderly neighbor, Elsie.

While getting to know more of Elsie’s past life, Alex has been thinking about her own life and how to make peace with everything that’s caused her heartache. Meanwhile, her mind constantly wanders toward her lingering feelings for her ex-husband, Matt. Their only involvement is their five-year-old daughter, yet Alex’s feelings are all over the place every time she and Matt have to see each other when it comes to their joint custody with their daughter.

No matter her feelings, Alex has always felt that moving on was the only way. However, with all that is going on in her life, she sees this house as a possibility of second chances, not just with the house, but with her life.

I received this copy from the author, in exchange for an honest review, and I’m happy to say that I’ve enjoyed the story. No spoilers, of course, but you’ll learn the reason behind the book’s title. I love how this book shows the reader that, no matter what’s happening in our lives, there’s always a chance to make things right.

Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

About the author: Maureen Leurck graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and currently resides in a suburb of Chicago with her husband and three children. She escapes up to the Lake Geneva area when she can for a good fish fry. For more info on the author, click here.

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“Come Sundown”–Review

51FVfObxphL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Come Sundown takes place in the successful ranch and resort in western Montana, where the Bodine family business is thriving and filled with vacationers.  The 30,000-acre ranch has been a home to four generations and is now managed by Bodine Longbow, along with a large staff and a new hire, Callen Skinner.

While everything is going well at the ranch, every now and then the topic of Bodine’s estranged aunt, Alice Bodine, comes up.  Unfortunately, the other family members don’t want to speak of her, all the more arousing Bodine’s curiosity.  Is Alice dead or still alive? And what drove Alice away? But, then, it isn’t long before they all are informed of an unexpected death of a young woman.  And then another death.  No one is quite sure why these deaths occurred.

After 25 years, however, the family is in a state of shock when they learn that Alice has been found.  It was 25 years ago that Alice had rebelled and left the ranch to pursue an acting career in Hollywood.  Once her days in Hollywood were done, though, she was ready to come back home.  But she never did make it back.

Now that Alice is back, everyone has questions.  Alice, however, is no longer the same.  Half of her life has been taken, yet she won’t give anyone the entire story.  Only within time will it all test the bonds of the Bodine family and thrust Bodine into a darkness she never could have imagined.

This is my first read by Nora Roberts. Although I didn’t really love the story—especially because I feel some scenes were unnecessary—I still think the plot and story line were good.  The scenes from Alice’s past were so awful, they angered me, but I won’t spoil any of it.  I did like the closeness of the Bodine family and the description of the ranch and resort, including the food.  Montana sounds like a beautiful place, in my opinion.  Perhaps you’ll enjoy this book.  Along with suspense, there is some romance involved.

Feel free to post your comments.  Happy reading!

Come Sundown will be available on June 6, 2017.

*I received this copy from St. Martin’s Press, in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Nora Roberts is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than 200 novels, including The Obsession, The Liar, The Collector, Whiskey Beach, and many more.  She is also the author of the bestselling In Death series, written under the pen name J.D. Robb.  There are more than 500 million copies of her books in print.  For more info on the author, click here.

“Lift and Separate”–Review

41+3RiLE6kLAfter 33 years of marriage, Marcy Hammer is shocked and heartbroken when her husband, Harvey, the head of a global lingerie empire, says that he’s leaving her.  Although his clothes have been removed from the closet, Marcy still has high hopes that he’ll reconsider.  It’s just a midlife crisis, he claims.  After all, they’ve been married for a long time and they could work out whatever the issues are.  However, Marcy learns that Harvey has been having an affair with his much younger, 32DD fitting model.

While they’re technically separated, Marcy now has to figure out how to go on living without Harvey.  But how will she do it, she wonders?  She’s in her late fifties and feels it’s almost impossible to start over.  With love and support from her friends and adult children, however, she starts learning how to be on her own—even on occasions when she’s close to falling apart.

Along the way, though, Marcy is struck with more surprises and family troubles, including one involving her new, once-in-a-lifetime best friend.  Will she be able to handle it all, along with the fact that her marriage is ending?

This was a great story, with excellent narration, as well.  I enjoyed the humor in each chapter.  With one surprise after another, I thought, “This poor woman.  Isn’t she already going through enough?” While she’s trying to cope, Harvey constantly returns with a new excuse.  What’s Marcy to do?

I’m happy that the author, Marilyn Simon Rothstein, sent me this copy for an honest review, so now I can share it with you all.  As always, feel free to post your comments.  Happy reading!

About the author:  For more than twenty-five years, Marilyn Simon Rothstein owned an advertising agency in Connecticut. She grew up in New York City, earned a degree in journalism from New York University, began her writing career at Seventeen magazine, and married a man she met in an elevator.

Marilyn received a Master of Arts in liberal studies from Wesleyan University and a Master of Arts in Judaic Studies from the University of Connecticut.

“The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living”–Review

51whg08igcl-_sx328_bo1204203200_Good afternoon, fellow bloggers!  Here’s a review of one of my most recent reads for my online book club.  Enjoy.

Life doesn’t always turn out the way we hope.

Olivia Rawlings is a pastry chef extraordinare for an exclusive Boston dinner club.  One evening, however, her flambéed dessert catches fire, including the rest of the building.  Feeling humilated, Olivia decides she needs to get away, so she packs a few things, including her dog, Salty, and drives out to Guthrie, Vermont—home of Bag Balm, the country’s longest-running contra dance, and her best friend, Hannah.  Although her stay is supposed to be temporary, Olivia is offered a job as a pastry chef for Margaret Hurley, the uptight owner of the Sugar Maple Inn.  Assuming her days at the club are numbered—including the fact that she’s broke and can’t pay her rent—Olivia takes the job.

With a new job, including free room and board, Livvy creates her famous desserts for the Guthrie residents.  It isn’t long, however, before she learns of the reason for being hired: to help Margaret reclaim the inn’s blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest. No matter, Livvy is a team player.

During her stay, she begins to grow accustomed to the country life.  Will it be worth staying?  Or will she eventually go back to Boston?  Then Livvy meets Martin McCraken, the Guthrie native who has returned from Seattle to help out his sick father.  As she gets to know Martin more, Livvy realizes she’s not as alone and confused in the world as she’d assumed.  Then an unexpected arrival occurs in Guthrie, leaving Livvy to decide whether to stay or go, and what it means to truly be home.

I think this was a great story.  It tells the reader that not only does life not turn out the way we planned, it could be even better than we’d expected.  Also, if you’re a foodie, this could be the book for you.  Honestly, my reading the parts where desserts were being prepared made me crave pie.  The only thing I’ve baked is a cake, which was years ago.  The corners of the cake were cracked, but I was happy for my progress.  Perhaps I’ll learn to bake a pie, one day.

As always, feel free to comment.  Happy reading!

About the author: Louise Miller is a pastry chef and writer who lives and works in Boston, MA. She received a scholarship to attend GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program, a yearlong workshop for novelists. She is an art school dropout, an amateur flower gardener, an old-time banjo player, an obsessive moviegoer, and a champion of old dogs. The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living is her debut novel.

“Skipping Christmas”–Review

41mpsbst04l-_sx312_bo1204203200_Good afternoon, bloggers! I can’t believe it’s already the week of Christmas. I hope you all are enjoying some great books. I, too, am hoarding books faster than I can read them, but it’s worth it. Anyhow, after stumbling upon a recommendation for Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham, I immediately took an interest in reading it.

It’s a good plot.  With their daughter away in Peru doing work for the Peace Corps, Luther and Nora Krank have different plans for the holidays. Every, single year, they’ve spent hundreds of dollars on holiday festivities yet not much to show for it. Now that it’s the two of them, the Kranks decide it’s time to do something for themselves, for once.  Instead of spending money on all the madness of Christmas, they’re going to spend ten days enjoying the warm weather on a Caribbean cruise.  What a wonderful way to treat themselves, right?  Wrong.

Once word gets out that the Kranks are cancelling their annual Christmas plans, the entire neighborhood is angry.  While preparing for their upcoming cruise, the Kranks endure harassment, rumors, gossip, etc., but that still won’t stop the Kranks from packing their bags.  Until they are hit with another surprise, making everything twice as messy.

Rarely do I read holiday-themed books, but I enjoyed reading this one.  I was curious to see how far the madness would go.  Some of the neighbors were so annoying, yet I couldn’t help wondering what would happen next.

Feel free to post your comments.  Happy reading and Happy Holidays!

“The Wayfarer Trilogy”–Review

511m9sm0mgl-_sx323_bo1204203200_-2Hello bloggers!  Although I’d read the last two books in the Wayfarer Trilogy awhile back, I’m happy for having the opportunity to finally read the first book, The Secret Language of Women, by Nina Romano.

Set in a war during the Boxer Rebellion in China, star-crossed lovers, Lian, a Eurasian healer, and Giacomo Scimenti, an Italian sailor, meet.  Because of superstition, history, and customs, Lian and Giacomo are separated yet try to find a way back to each other.  Then Lian is forced into marrying a man to whom she was promised long ago.  When she is forbidden from her profession as a healer, frowned upon by her unbound feet, and enduring her husband’s and in-laws’ demanding ways, Lian turns to Nushu, the women’s secret writing which expresses her hopes for the future.

When Lian realizes enough is enough, she embarks on her own quest for freedom—even if it will come with a costly price.  Not only does she risk everything in hopes of reuniting with Giacomo, she learns a lot more about herself along the way and what she’s willing to endure to be happy again.

I liked Giacomo and now that I’ve read his story, the next two books made a bit more sense to me.

51gnxdwxitl-_sx324_bo1204203200_Lemon Blossoms, the second book in the trilogy, takes place in Italy, where Angelica Domenico resides in a blossoming lemon grove on an island governed by volcanoes and earthquakes.  During an accident from her childhood, Angelica faces the importance of maintaining her purity.  She begins to question it all even more after she endures the trauma of her aunt’s death during a difficult childbirth.  Because of that, including her fear of intimacy, she decides she’s going to commit her life to the convent, even though her parents forbid it.

Things start to change, however, when Giacomo Scimenti stops by the family shop, leaving Angelica confused and afraid of her feelings toward him, including her future in the convent.

I liked this book, even more, especially when certain chapters mentioned some Italian recipes.  I hope to, one day, visit Italy.  Aside from that, it was a good story with likable characters.

51yi1la3zhl-_sx327_bo1204203200_The final book, In America, takes place in 1920s New York.  Marcella Scimenti—the daughter of the characters in the previous book—is young, beautiful, and ambitious.  The handsome neighborhood boy is in love with her, she has a large family, and she has dreams of moving to Hollywood to sing.  Although her parents forbid her to pursue a singing career, Marcella is willing to stick by her own stubborn ways and do what it takes.  During the economic depression, she learns the importance of friendships, promising suitors, and life as a modern working woman with certain expectations of her tradition-bound family.  Later on, Marcella’s fate is tested when she learns of a devastating family secret, leaving her to choose what is really important in life.

I’m happy for having the opportunity to read this trilogy and I loved some of the helpful advice Marcella was given in the third book.  It just left me thinking, “Wow.  I wouldn’t have thought of it that way.”  No spoilers, of course, so I’ll just encourage you to check out this wonderful trilogy.

Feel free to post your comments, of course.  Happy reading!

For more info on the author, click here.  Also, you can follow her on Twitter.

“The Taste of Air”–Review

416syijurlIt all changes with a phone call.

Nell Williams, a wife and full time mother, receives a phone call regarding her mother, Mary Ellen Reilly.  While Mary is supposed to be residing in an assisted-living facility in Massachusetts, apparently she’s been in a hospital in Vermont.  Confused by this new information, Nell contacts her sister, Bridget, and hops on a plane to Vermont.  By the time the sisters arrive, they learn that Mary has been seriously ill and is barely capable of speaking, so getting any information is going to be a lot more difficult.

While they’re there, the sisters eventually learn that Mary has been living another life, with a cottage of her own and a connection to two men—including the local residents—who claim to have known Mary for years.  But who are they to Mary?  And is it possible that they’re connected with Nell and Bridget?

During their stay in their mother’s hideaway, Nell and Bridget start to uncover more secrets from Mary’s past, leading them to question their own lives and decisions for the future.

I’m happy I’ve had the opportunity to read this book.  Each chapter contained many surprises and it left me wanting more.  I especially liked the descriptions of the settings in Vermont. (I hope to, one day, visit the place.)  I also enjoyed reading the chapters from Mary’s past.  No worries, I won’t spoil a thing, but I will recommend you check out this book.  As always, feel free to post your comments.  Happy reading!

About the author: Gail Cleare has written for magazines, newspapers, Fortune 500 companies, and AOL.  Her award-winning advertising agency represented the creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  She was the turtle Leonardo’s date for the world premier of the second movie, and got to wear a black evening gown and sparkly shoes.  Gail lives on an 18th century farm in New England with her family and dogs, cats, chickens, black bears, blue herons, rushing streams, and wide, windy skies.  She loves organic gardening and nature photography and can often be found stalking creatures with a 300 mm lens.  Check her out on Twitter.