Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Bear Necessity

 

A delightful story about a grieving British father and his young son who refuses to speak and how they learn to communicate with each other through a dancing panda bear.

 

British-born author James Gould-Bourn bursts onto the U.S. literary scene with a charming, deeply comforting story about a father and son entrenched in grief.

 

After a car accident claimed the life of Danny Malooley's beloved wife--and mother to their son, Will--father and son grapple with their loss, trying to shore up their shattered world. Matters hit rock bottom when Danny suddenly loses his construction job and cannot pay the bills. But worst of all is the fact that 11-year-old Will has refused to speak to anyone--including his dad--since his mother's death.

 

Depressed, destitute and desperate, Danny ambles through a park one day and spots street performers entertaining passersby and raking in money. This proves a moment of enlightenment as he decides, on a lark, to join their ranks. Barreling through a host of amusing complications, he secures an old panda bear suit and sets off to earn some money covertly.

 

Meanwhile, Will struggles with his lingering silence and being taunted by older kids at school. When the boy is bullied in the park one day, a goofy-looking, dancing panda performer unexpectedly comes to his rescue.


Heartfelt themes and wit further elevate charming plot twists and a well-tuned cast of quirky, supporting characters who prove that the spirit of friendship can build bridges to greater understanding and brighter days. Gould-Bourn is a perceptive writer who has crafted a moving, sensitive story that is also very funny. Bear Necessity is a perfect literary antidote to anxious, troubled times.

Bear Necessity: A Novel by Jason Gould Bourn

Scribner, $26.00 Hardcover, 9781982128296, 320 pages

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

 

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (August 7, 2020), link HERE

 

To read the longer form of this review as published on Shelf Awareness for the Book Trade (July 14, 2020), link HERE

 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Paris is Always a Good Idea

 

A fun, adventurous story about a 30-something workaholic who takes a sabbatical to rekindle a happier, romance-filled time in her life. 

Prolific author Jenn McKinlay (Buried to the Brim) departs from her long-running series and delivers a fun, feel-good, stand-alone novel that will delight readers. Paris Is Always a Good Idea, a bittersweet story, focuses on a disillusioned woman in her 30s who sets off on an exciting worldwide adventure.

 

After college, Chelsea Martin goes through seven years of struggle. Her beloved mother dies, and grief-stricken Chelsea buries herself in work, becoming a corporate fund-raising star for a prominent cancer coalition in Boston. When her "buttoned-down" mathematician father, a widower, proposes to a woman he's known for only two weeks, Chelsea suddenly takes stock of her own life, wondering why she isn't happy or in a fulfilling romantic relationship of her own.

 

Chelsea decides, on a lark, to return to a time in her life when she believed she was happy and carefree--full of love and joy, hope and promise. Taking a much-needed sabbatical from her successful career, she winds her way through Europe to try to recapture the spirit of the woman she once was--retracing a route she traveled after college. She seeks out and revisits old flames, starting in a quaint, small town in Ireland; returning to the glittering lights of romantic Paris; then on to a vineyard tucked into the rolling hills of Tuscany. By reuniting with lovable old beaus in the hope of rekindling romance in each picturesque locale, Chelsea learns much about herself and what she truly wants from life.

 

Readers will savor the feisty, adventurous journey of McKinlay's self-deprecating protagonist as she re-examines her past in order to chart her future.


Paris is Always a Good Idea: A Novel by Jenn McKinlay

Berkley, $16.00 Paperback, 9780593101353, 352 pages

Publication Date: July 21, 2020

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

 

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (July 24, 2020), link HERE

 

To read the longer form of this review as published on Shelf Awareness for the Book Trade (June 26, 2020), link HERE

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Of Literature and Lattes

How do you pick up the pieces and start again in life? In this gentle romance, a newcomer and a woman, a former local, returning to a Midwestern hometown spark a romance that helps reinvent their lives.


Readers will be eager and charmed to return to Winsome, Ill., where several characters from The Printed Letter Bookshop and a host of new ones richly populate the literary landscape that Katherine Reay (The Austen Escape) presents in Of Literature and Lattes.

 

Thirty-one-year-old Alyssa Harrison left Winsome on bad terms with her overbearing mother, Janet, a bookstore employee who cheated on Alyssa's dad. For several years, Alyssa worked in Silicon Valley in California at a health-centric start-up that was ultimately deemed fraudulent by the FBI. With her career in shambles and money tight, Alyssa is forced to swallow her pride and return to her childhood home in Winsome to regroup and put the pieces of her life back together. What will it take for Alyssa and her mother, living back under the same roof, to make amends and finally bury the hatchet?

 

As Alyssa reacclimates to the quaint small town, she frequents the coffee shop and befriends the owner, Jeremy Mitchell, a Seattle transplant who overhauls the shop into a more upscale meeting place the locals resist. Jeremy enlists Alyssa's help to drum up more business and balance the books. Along the way, he battles with his ex-wife, who tries to keep him from his seven-year-old daughter.

 

A budding relationship between Alyssa and Jeremy--and their quests to overcome their respective challenges--anchors the feel-good, wholesome poignancy of the narrative. Equally appealing secondary characters and storylines bind this redemptive novel's overarching themes: the power of forgiveness, friendship and love.

 

Of Literature and Lattes: A Novel by Katherine Reay

Thomas Nelson, $16.99 Paperback, 9780785222040, 336 pages

Publication Date: March 10, 2020

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE


NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (May 26, 2020), link HERE


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

A Walk Along the Beach

What does it take to open your heart up to new love?  This emotionally powerful story is about a young woman who struggles with sadness and grief…and imperfections in life that challenge love.


Debbie Macomber plumbs the depths of family bonds, tackling weighty emotional issues with great sensitivity and compassion. As she cites in her introduction, A Walk Along the Beach grew out of her own despair after the death of her dear friend, romance author Christina Skye, and taking a writing sabbatical to put her grief into perspective. What evolved as a result is a story about a Washington State family riddled with losses and challenges that upend the lives of all involved.
At the age of 13, Willa became the bedrock of the Lakey family. One of three children, she grew up fast after her mother died, and her father drowned his sorrows in drink. Deferring her own dreams, Willa practically raised her charming, adventurous, younger sister, Harper--a leukemia survivor--and supported her brother, Lucas, while shouldering many responsibilities and burdens within the family. After Willa's life has finally settled down in her late 20s, she opens a quaint café, and her manageable world is rocked by the attentions of a handsome, world-traveling, NatGeo photojournalist--with a shrouded past--who frequents the coffee shop. Through some endearing sisterly goading, Harper urges Willa to take a chance on love. But is sensitive Willa ready to risk opening her heart?
Macomber (Window on the Bay) fans may be surprised by heavier themes that churn undercurrents of sadness, loss and grief. The reward, however, is fully drawn characters and conflicts that will grip readers as much as--if not more than--Macomber's usually lighter romantic fare.
A Walk Along the Beach: A Novel by Debbie Macomber
Ballantine Books, $27.00 Hardcover, 9780399181368, 336 pages
Publication Date: July 14, 2020
To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (July 17, 2020), link HERE

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

28 Summers


Star-crossed soulmates rekindle their romance, love and perpetual loyalty one weekend every year--for 28 years.

Elin Hilderbrand tugs on readers' heartstrings with great aplomb. In 28 Summers, she begins at the end of a long-term, unconventional romance and weaves the captivating story of star-crossed lovers through 28 years of history. 

The 1978 movie Same Time, Next Year--an American romantic-comedy-drama--serves as inspiration to the structure of the story and to main characters Mallory Blessing and Jake McCloud, who are fans of the film. Mallory and Jake developed an easy, flirtatious camaraderie over the phone while Jake and Cooper, Mallory's brother, roomed together at college. The two meet face-to-face only in 1993, while in their 20s--after Mallory inherits a Nantucket beach house from her aunt. Mallory plays host to soon-to-be-married Cooper and his friends, who gather on the island for his bachelor party on Labor Day weekend. The gathering goes bust on many levels, but Mallory and Jake forge an intimate bond--a soulmate connection--amid the mayhem and vow that every year, on Labor Day weekend, they should meet up again, just like in the iconic film.

For the next 28 years, the couple fulfills their pact, having contact with each other for only one weekend annually, where they secretly rekindle their romance and share the travails of their private lives--the challenges and sacrifices of dating and marriage to other people, parenthood and career pursuits. Careful plotting binds this deeply moving, powerful story. Hilderbrand (Summer of 69The Perfect Couple) successfully entwines a host of surprising twists where multi-faceted characters become ensnared in thought-provoking romantic dilemmas.
28 Summers: A Novel by Elin Hilderbrand
Little, Brown and Company, $28.00 Hardcover, 9780316420044, 432 pages
Publication Date: June 16, 2020
To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (June 19, 2020), link HERE

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The Bromance Book Club


A group of men who secretly rely on romance novels to inspire them in their lives? Seriously??
In this smart, snarky rom-com, an out-of-work pastry chef and a nightclub owner set out to take down a celebrity chef who's a sexual predator.
The Bromance Book Club, the first in this edgy rom-com series, focused on Thea Scott's marital woes with her husband, Gavin--a professional baseball player who led a book club where accomplished Nashville men covertly discuss romance novels. In the second installment, Thea's headstrong, sarcastic sister, Olivia "Liv" Papandreas, takes the lead.  

Distrustful of men, single Liv works as a pastry chef at an upscale restaurant owned by celebrity chef Royce Preston. Liv's world is turned upside down when Braden Mack, a local nightclub owner--and member of the Bromance Book Club--comes to dine at the restaurant. In an effort to impress his latest conquest, Mack orders the restaurant's signature dessert--a $1,000 chocolate cupcake featuring edible gold ornaments and served with a 24-carat-gold spoon. When Liv drops the pricey cupcake into the lap of Mack's new lady friend, her career plummets. Matters grow worse when Liv later witnesses Royce forcing a female staffer into a compromising position. Mack's empathy for Liv's sudden unemployment, coupled with news of Royce's predatory behavior, urges him to ally forces with Liv and members of the book club to take down Royce. Inspired in their quest by wisdom gleaned from a dark romantic suspense novel, the book club members also coach Mack on how romantically to woo jaded Liv.

The quick-witted banter between Liv and Mack rises like cream to the top of this smartly conceived romance. In Undercover Bromance, Lyssa Kay Adams dishes up snarky, high-octane laughs, serious themes and delicious plot twists.

UndercoverBromance (Bromance Book Club #2) by Lyssa Kay Adams

Berkley, $16.00 Paperback, 9781984806116, 352 pages

Publication Date: March 10, 2020

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (March 24, 2020), link HERE

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Big Finish


In this adventurous, poignant novel, a feisty 88-year-old comes to the rescue of his roommate's troubled granddaughter.
Brooke Fossey's cleverly conceived, charming first novel, The Big Finish, centers on gruff and feisty 88-year-old Duffy Sinclair--a never-married Vietnam vet and recovering alcoholic. He believes his days are numbered while in residence at Centennial, an assisted living community in Everton, Tex. Duffy is fun and spirited. He jokes with the nurses, complains to the dining hall cook, riles the facility manager and flirts endlessly with an attractive female resident. Duffy and his staid best friend and roommate, Carl Upton, are still able-bodied and intellectually sound. But Duffy worries, if he doesn't toe the line or if he loses mobility, he'll be moved to Simmons, a dreadful nursing home for the aged, to live out his last days. Duffy's fears soon fall by the wayside, however, replaced by bigger ones, when Carl's granddaughter, Josie--a reckless 20-something whom Duffy never knew existed--breaks into their room through a window, seeking refuge. Her mother, the daughter of Carl's former mistress, has died, and Josie, in trouble, has fled an abusive boyfriend.
What ensues is an often madcap yet deeply poignant story. Josie's predicament and presence (Duffy and Carl secretly harbor her at the assisted living community) rallies Duffy's empathy and affections, forcing him to re-examine his life and take stock of--and perhaps even alter--his destiny.
Fossey delivers a funny, adventurous novel about second chances, redemption and how, just when it might seem as though life is winding down, it's actually just getting started.


Berkley, $26.00 Hardcover, 9781984804938, 336 pages

Publication Date: April 14, 2020

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (May 15, 2020), link HERE

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Can't Hurry Love


Meddling small towns make for a great, escapist read!

 A charming, cheerful romance about a young widow who discovers secrets about her late husband as she carves out a new life.

Prolific romance writer Melinda Curtis (the Mountain Monroes and the Kissing Test series) begins a lively rom-com series filled with a large cast of eccentric characters, zany humor and a slew of clever plot twists.
In Can't Hurry Love, Lola Williams is a 29-year-old who gave up a career in New York City doing hair and make-up for high-powered Broadway celebrities in order to marry Randy and relocate to his small hometown of Sunshine, Colo. After only a year of marriage, Randy is killed in a car accident. Lola struggles as a young widow in a town where everyone knows everyone else's business--except for Lola, who, when she goes through her husband's belongings, discovers Randy was keeping secrets. Was he cheating on her?
Upset and angered by a string of unsettling revelations, she sets some of Randy's things aflame in a bonfire that draws the Sunshine Valley Widows Club and also Sheriff Drew Taylor, a divorcé and devoted father who's sworn off women. Sheriff Taylor and the group of local widows come to the emotionally wounded Lola's rescue: women of all ages, personalities and quirks; do-good fundraisers, gossips and self-professed matchmakers with tales to tell. Lola then becomes determined to solve the mystery of Randy. While on her quest, she starts to build a new life, suddenly finding herself enmeshed in the fabric of busybody small-town living, while also opening her heart again to love, however reluctantly.
Curtis weaves laugh-out-loud comic scenes with heartfelt emotions, delivering an endearing, wholesome romance.




Forever, $7.99 Mass Market Paperback, 9781538733417, 512 pages

Publication Date: March 31, 2020

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (April 17, 2020), link HERE


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Wine Girl


After reading this beautifully rendered memoir, you’ll never sip a glass of wine and think of it in the same way!
The captivating story of a resourceful young female sommelier who overcame countless obstacles to become an award-winning wine expert and restaurateur.
Victoria James (Drink Pink: A Celebration of Rosé) retraces the rocky road she traveled to become an award-winning wine expert who, at the age of 21, was the youngest sommelier to lead a Michelin-starred restaurant.
She divides her story into seven sections, mapping her life from age seven to 28. The prologue perfectly embodies the theme and tone of the memoir: James, a newbie sommelier at an upscale restaurant, must deliver a $650 bottle of chardonnay from Burgundy, France, to an elite, grossly chauvinistic customer. James quells her nervousness and uncorks the bottle, following protocol with "calculated precision." She tastes and approves the wine, which she describes as "like slipping into a bed made up with silk sheets." After the patron takes his own sip, he verbally demeans James--her youth and inexperience--and orders her to take the bottle back and uncork another. What ensues is an apt metaphor for James's life as she takes on the patron and her own fears, managing to appease the customer and her bosses, while also endearing herself to readers who will eagerly empathize with and root for her. 
How she deals with challenges and conflicts--and proves to be a tenacious problem-solver, undaunted overcomer and go-getter--are what make James and her underdog story so appealing. Her flowing narrative defines and explains many terms used to describe wine and its aficionados. One word, however, sums up James's utterly engrossing coming-of-age and success story--Wonderful!  


Ecco, $26.99 Hardcover, 9780062961679, 336 pages

Publication Date: March 24, 2020

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (March 27, 2020), link HERE 
To read the longer form of this review as published on Shelf Awareness for the Book Trade (March 5, 2020), link HERE




Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Postscript


Popular Irish author Cecelia Ahern returns with the long-awaited sequel to her best-selling novel (and blockbuster movie), PS I Love You.  
A tender, moving story about a widow who helps a group of terminally ill patients leave behind heartfelt messages for loved ones.
Cecelia Ahern continues the story she started in her bestselling debut, PS, I Love You. After Holly Kennedy--an Irish, 30-year-old--lost her beloved husband and soul mate, Gerry, to a brain tumor, he left behind 10 notes, one for each month, capped with his tender signature of ‘PS, I Love You.’ Each letter offered Holly guidance and wisdom as she struggled to carve out a new life. 
In Postscript, it’s seven years later for Holly—now 37-years-old and romantically involved with Gabriel, a divorcée who co-parents a contentious teenager. When Holly is asked to be a guest on a podcast to discuss Gerry’s letters--what they meant and how they changed her--her participation drives a wedge in her relationship with Gabriel. And when a group of terminally ill patients--fans of the ‘PS, I Love You’ letters--approaches Holly, enlisting her help to write letters of their own, Holly’s perspective on life--and love--shifts. Holly assists a 17-year-old, unmarried mother facing cervical cancer to craft a heartfelt message for her newborn; a father with a brain tumor longing to remain part of his family’s life; a husband with advanced emphysema with a penchant for writing playful Limericks; and a woman battling MS. In offering assistance, Holly examines how time changes those forced to reinvent themselves—both the dying and the living.  
Ahern (Flawed) is a passionate, sensitive storyteller. She employs great empathy as she probes dark themes and gives readers the pleasure of another entertaining, enriching story buoyed by hope and positivity.




Grand Central Publishing, $27.00 Hardcover, 9781538746592, 304 pp

Publication Date: February 11, 2020

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (March 6, 2020), link HERE

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

142 Ostriches

Familial dynamics are complicated and messy--even more so when there is a death in the family.

A deeply moving story about a young woman who inherits an ostrich ranch and must fight family strife and dysfunction.

April Dávila's first novel is wise, moving and beautifully rendered. She sets 142 Ostriches on Wishbone Ranch, an ostrich farm in Sombra, a remote California town entrenched in the Mojave Desert.

The heroine, 24-year-old Tallulah Jones, is ready to fly the coop to take a Forest Service job in Montana when her Grandma Helen dies in a mysterious car crash. She is the person who rescued 13-year-old Tallulah from her irresponsible, alcoholic mother in Oakland, Calif., and brought her to live on the ostrich ranch 11 years ago. The news derails and defers Tallulah's plans. All along, Helen had groomed Tallulah to take over the 50-year-old ranch. She was adamantly opposed to her granddaughter's plans to escape to Montana. This leaves Tallulah to question the timing of her grandmother's death: Was it really an accident?

Helen's absence reunites and unsettles the extended family. This includes Tallulah's estranged mother, Laura; aunt Christine, a level-headed wife and mother who lives nearby; and erratic recovering meth-addict uncle Steve. When everyone learns that Helen has bequeathed the ostrich farm to Tallulah, emotions and rebelliousness run high in the family--and in the ostrich flock, when the sensitive birds suddenly stop laying eggs. Contentiousness further escalates when Tallulah considers selling the farm.

She is a young woman faced with difficult choices in her quest to rise above the perils of familial dysfunction. The result, Dávila's stellar debut, is infused with richly drawn characters, tightly focused suspense and authentic detail about farm and desert life.


Kensington Books, $15.95 Paperback

9781496724700, 272 pages

Publication Date: February 25, 2020

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE


NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (March 24, 2020), link HERE

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets


Who can resist a novel where a dog resides at the heart of the action? (Not me, that’s for sure!) Add a knitting club and themes of second chances and that ups the ante.
A colorful story of Women’s Fiction about a washed-up writer whose life changes after inheriting her birth-mother’s estate—and her memories.

In one day, 36-year-old Seattle sportswriter Maeve "Mae" Stephens is laid off from her newspaper job, learns that her boyfriend (a left fielder for the Mariners) is cheating on her, and gets mugged for $32 in her wallet. No sooner does down-on-her-luck Mae move in with her parents (who lovingly adopted her as a baby) when she receives a phone call informing her that her birth mother, Annabelle, has died in a freak accident. An old friend of Annabelle invites Mae to attend the funeral in the small town of Timber Creek.

For years, Mae wrote Annabelle letters, which were returned to her unread. But with life at a standstill, Mae sets off for Timber Creek and learns she is the beneficiary of Annabelle's worldly possessions, including her house, an old VW and a moody cat. When a wayward bulldog is found chained to the front porch, Mae extends her stay. She's befriended by curious townsfolk, including a handsome but blocked writer and a group of women as tight-knit as the colorful sweaters they craft to keep local animals warm. Is there more than meets the eye to the idyllic town--and to the story of Annabelle's life?

As Mae learns more about the woman who gave her up and why, she also discovers herself--who she is and what she wants out of life. Annie England Noblin (The Sisters Hemingway, Pupcakes) spins a poignant, heartwarming story about secrets and lies, strangers and lovers.


William Morrow Paperbacks, $16.99 Paperback, 9780062748317, 384 pages

Publication Date: January 14, 2020

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE



NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review as published via Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (February 11, 2020), link HERE