“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.

“The Map That Leads to You”–Review

517U90EoYSL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Good evening, bloggers! Here’s my review of The Map That Leads to You.

The main character, Heather, has just finished college. Now she and her best friends are about to travel throughout Europe, to enjoy life before beginning their new lives. When it comes to everyday life, Heather has always been organized. Everything will work out, she tells herself. During their train ride to Amsterdam, however, Heather meets Jack. Unlike Heather, Jack lives by his own rules, while following his grandfather’s journals throughout Europe.

It isn’t long before Heather and Jack are drawn to each other. During their travels, it is Jack who shows Heather how to truly live, to not live life based on daily itineraries. Although they have their many disagreements when it comes to living life and the corporate world, their feelings for each other become stronger, leading Heather to make new choices about her life. But, then, she learns of a secret Jack has kept for quite some time. Will it change everything, though?

I loved reading about all the many cities in Europe and I’m sure I’m not the only one to say this, but I really hope to, one day, visit these places, to fall in love with my surroundings.  I’ve stumbled upon dozens of beautiful travel journals and told myself that I’ll have the opportunity to use one, someday. It all sounds as wonderful and romantic as this book is. For all of the wanderlusts, I recommend this book. Feel free to post your comments. Happy reading!

The Map That Leads to You will be available on June 13, 2017.

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

About the author: J.P. Monninger is an award-winning writer in New England and professor of English at Plymouth State University.

“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.

“The Two-Family House”–Review

51p7ayjdy3l-_sx327_bo1204203200_Good afternoon, bloggers! I just finished my required reading—The Two-Family House—for an upcoming book club, and I’m happy to share this with you.

In 1940s Brooklyn, a blizzard is approaching.  In a two-family brownstone are two mothers who are sisters by marriage.  Rose is dutiful and quiet, who just wants to please her distant and difficult husband, Mort.  Helen, although exhausted from raising four rambunctious boys, is caring, warm, and patient.  During the blizzard, Rose and Helen go into labor at the same time, with both babies born minutes apart.  Throughout the years, both women have raised their families side by side, supporting each other, and bonding like sisters.

After the storm has passed, both families go about their normal lives.  As the years pass, however, the once-deep friendship between Rose and Helen starts to unravel.  Rose hasn’t been the same since the the blizzard and Helen can’t figure out the reason, nor can both families.  It all eventually leads back to one misguided choice, a secret between Rose and Helen that can affect both families, should it ever be revealed.

I was immediately interested in this story when it first came out and I’m happy for having the opportunity to read it.  It wasn’t what I expected.  Some of the characters had me a bit frustrated—like the relationship between Mort and his brother Abe, Helen’s husband—yet made me want to know their story.  At times, it had me asking, “Why are you all this way?” And some scenes had me near tears, but I was enjoying the whole book.

As always, feel free to post your comments.  Happy reading!

About the author: Lynda Cohen Loigman grew up in Longmeadow, Massachusetts.  She earned a B.A. in English and American literature from Harvard College and J.D. from Columbia Law School.  She is now a student at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College and lives with her husband and two children in Chappaqua, New York.  Follow her on Twitter.

“The Long Journey to Jake Palmer”–Review

410mbxgu66l-_sx322_bo1204203200_What if there was a place where everything wrong in your life could be fixed?

That’s an interesting question.  What if there was such a place?  And would you be willing to find it?  In this story, Jake Palmer is a corporate trainer who coaches people to see deeper into themselves, to motivate and provide inspiration to their lives.  The problem, however, is that Jake no longer practices what he preaches.  Recently divorced and after a near-death experience, Jake is discouraged with life.  Even after his seminars, he questions his own purposes, all the while feeling sorry for himself and just wanting to be left alone.

Although he’s not too excited about the idea, Jake agrees to meet his close friends at a lake-house for a ten-day vacation.  While he’s there, Jake is informed of the legend of Willow Lake, where a lost corridor leads to a place where one’s longings can be fulfilled, where their lives can be completely healed.  Jake’s not sure what to believe.  Although he considers the idea absurd, he still can’t help feeling tempted to find this corridor.  And when he meets a man who talks of particular beliefs of the corridor, Jake becomes determined to find this path, to find himself, and to have his life back.

This book is quite an inspirational read and I’m happy for having the opportunity to read and share this with you.  It definitely wasn’t what I expected, but it was great.  Some of the scenes where almost as if I’d stepped into a fantasy novel and I liked the creativity behind it.  Sometimes, no matter where we are in our lives, we all could use that little push.  I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll just recommend you check it out.  Feel free to post your comments.  Happy reading!

FTC Disclosure: I received this copy from BookLook Bloggers, in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: James L. Rubart is a professional marketer and speaker.  He is the author of the bestselling novel Rooms, as well as Book of Days, The Chair, the Well Spring Novels, and The Five Times I Met Myself.  He lives with his wife and sons in the Pacific Northwest.  You can visit his websiteTwitter, or Facebook.

“Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal”–Review

41okQLg0eoL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Why the title Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal?  Because each piece of prose is organized into classic subjects such as Social Studies, Music, and Language Arts.  Because textbook would accurately describe a book with a first-of-its-kind interactive text messaging component.  Because textbook is an expression meaning “quintessential”—Oh, that wordplay and unconventional format is so typical of her, so textbook AKR.  Because if an author’s previous book has the word encyclopedia in the title, following up with a textbook would be rather nice.

This is an interesting, humorous read, which I finished in three days.  It’s an insightful memoir of the author’s life, filled with random insights, memories, and moments.  Included are some drawings, charts, and diagrams.  In a way, I see this book as a diary.  In fact, it may have inspired some new writing ideas for me.  I’m happy for having the opportunity to read this book.

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal will be available on August 9, 2016.  Feel free to post your comments.  Happy reading!

*I received this copy from Dutton Books, in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal writes for both adults and children.  She has written more than thirty children’s picture books, including Little Pea, Spoon, Exclamation Mark, Duck! Rabbit!, Uni the Unicorn, and I Wish You More.  Amy is a contributor to public radio, YouTube, and TED.  She resides digitally at whoisamy.com and for real in Chicago.

“The Invoice”–Review

51FNB4GlZqL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_A heartfelt exploration of the cost of life and love—and the importance of the little things.

Jonas Karlsson’s new novel is about the nature of happiness through the eyes of his nameless main character.  In his late 30s, he’s a movie buff who works part time at a video store.  He’s content with having few friends and acquaintances, as well as his daily routine of movies and pizza in his small flat in Stockholm.

He ends up with a different perspective, however, when he ends up receiving an invoice from a national bureaucratic agency, stating that he owes over 5,000,000 kronor. (I believe, in U.S. currency, that amount is over $600,000.)  Demanding to know why he has received the largest bill in the country, he calls the hotline day and night.  After finally getting through to a representative, he realizes he’s being billed just for being alive.  But he’s still confused as to why he has to pay such an high amount.  After all, he’s never really lived a day in his life, never applied himself to anything, never traveled, he’s had a few lovers but not long-term relationships, he has a dead-end job, and yet he was always content.  So why him?

The main character is an idealist.  But now that he’s in hot water, how can he possibly pay off this astronomical debt?

It’s quite an interesting topic.  Although the ending wasn’t what I expected, I still think it’s worth reading.  Just imagine what it would be like for everyone in the world to be billed for being alive—whether their lives have been great or not.

As always, feel free to post your comments.  Happy reading!

*The Invoice will be on sale in July 2016.  I received this copy from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers.

About the author: Jonas Karlsson writes plays and short fiction.  One of Sweden’s most prominent actors, Karlsson has performed on Sweden’s premier stage and in several feature films and television series.  In 2005, he made his debut as a playwright, earning rave reviews from audiences and critics alike.  He is also the author of The Room.