2021 Book 52: THE KINDEST LIE by Nancy Johnson

The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson
ISBN: 9780063005631 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780063005655 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780063005662 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B0872K2Y82 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B086ZRRYCW (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow Books
Release Date: February 2, 2021

A promise could betray you.

Its 2008, and the inauguration of President Barack Obama ushers in a new kind of hope. In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy-League educated Black engineer, is married to a kind and successful man. He’s eager to start a family, but Ruth is uncertain. She has never gotten over the baby she gave birth to—and was forced to leave behind—when she was a teenager. She had promised her family she’d never look back, but Ruth knows that to move forward, she must make peace with the past.

Returning home, Ruth discovers the Indiana factory town of her youth is plagued by unemployment, racism, and despair. As she begins digging into the past, she unexpectedly befriends Midnight, a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection. Just as Ruth is about to uncover a burning secret her family desperately wants to keep hidden, a traumatic incident strains the town’s already searing racial tensions, sending Ruth and Midnight on a collision course that could upend both their lives.

Powerful and revealing, The Kindest Lie captures the heartbreaking divide between Black and white communities and offers both an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.

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Read an excerpt here.

 
Ruth Tuttle Shaw is in her late twenties and living her best life in Chicago, Illinois. She has an Ivy-league education, a good job as a chemical engineer, and is married to an amazing, loving, and successful man, Xavier Shaw. They have a wonderful home, a wide circle of friends, and after four years of marriage, her husband is ready to start a family. The only problem is Ruth has never told him about the child she gave up for adoption eleven years earlier. To say that this revelation puts a strain on their marriage is somewhat of an understatement. They quickly go from a major high in celebrating the historic election of the first Black president of the United States to a secret that just might tear their relationship apart. Unsure of how to proceed with Xavier, she decides to head back to Indiana and begin the search for her biological child.

Patrick “Midnight” Boyd, is an eleven-year-old white child living in poverty in Ganton, Indiana. His mother died from preeclampsia when he was seven years old and he currently lives with his maternal grandmother. Midnight has one functional arm due to nerve damage in the other caused by some boys intentionally setting him on fire. His best friend is Corey Cunningham, a Black kid and the primary reason he was set on fire, for defending his friend of a different race. Midnight is unaware of his privilege as a White boy and only sees that Corey has more money and a better home life and family than he does. When he learns that might be sent to live with relatives in Louisiana, his fear of leaving all that he’s known and his jealousy of his friend begin to eat him up. After learning a secret about Corey, that jealousy becomes so overpowering that it just might lead to something neither he nor Corey will be able to come back from in a community that is torn behind poverty and racial animosity.

The Kindest Lie is told in alternating voices of Ruth, a twenty-something Black female and Midnight, a White tween male. The only things they appear to have in common are being raised in near poverty in the same small town. But Ruth’s maternal grandparents and Midnight’s maternal grandparents were actually good friends back in the day. Ruth and her brother were raised by their maternal grandparents and Midnight is being raised by his maternal grandmother. Ruth attempts to befriend Midnight and the two seem to be more different than the same, superficially. However, both are seeking answers to questions about family and love although they are going about in different ways. The Kindest Lie is a story about hope, love, motherhood, family, race relations, secrets, dreams, dreams deferred, as well as the lies we tell ourselves and to others. It’s also a story about what family is willing to do to make some of those dreams come true. For those of you that have read The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett or Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of The Kindest Lie to read. If you’re interested in reading a well-written debut novel that tackles hard questions in a hopeful manner, again, you’ll want to grab a copy of The Kindest Lie to read. This book is one of my #mustread recommendations for 2021.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2020 Book 389: SNAPPED by Alexa Martin

SNAPPED by Alexa Martin

Snapped, The Playbook #4, by Alexa Martin 
ISBN: 9780593102503 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780593102510 (eBook)
ISBN: 9780593291375 (Audiobook)
ASIN: B088HHBFR5  (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B084786PTF   (Kindle edition)
Publication date: October 20, 2020 
Publisher: Berkley Books


With the stakes this high, it’s no longer just a game for the quarterback in this romance by the author of Blitzed.


Elliot Reed is living her best life—or pretending to. She owes it to her dad’s memory to be happy and make the most of her new job as Strategic Communications Manager for the Denver Mustangs. Things are going well until star quarterback Quinton Howard Jr. decides to use the field as his stage and becomes the first player to take a knee during the national anthem.



As the son of a former professional athlete, Quinton knows the good, the bad, and the ugly about football. He’s worked his entire life to gain recognition in the sport, and now that he has it, he’s not about to waste his chance to change the league for better. Not even the brilliant but infuriating Elliot, who the Mustangs assign to manage him, will get Quinton back in line.


A rocky initial meeting only leads to more tension between Quinton and Elliot. But as her new job forces them to spend time together, she realizes they may have more in common than she could’ve ever imagined. With her job and his integrity on the line, this is one coin toss that nobody can win. 


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Okay, the first thing you should know is that I am not a sports person by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed The Playbook series by Alexa Martin. I just binge re-read the entire series over the past few days (yes, I re-re-read Intercepted, Fumbled, and re-read Blitzed) in preparation for reading the latest addition to this series, Snapped. I’m so glad I did. It was nice refamiliarizing myself with the Lady Mustangs (the wives and girlfriends of the Denver Mustang players) and their drama and romances. Each book in this series touches upon some serious issues while also providing a great steamy romance read. Snapped is a bit more serious in that it takes to heart the issues of long-term adverse effects of head injuries or CTE and lack of player parity within the football league, as well as professional athlete protests on-the-field and racial representation within the industry. I knew little about any of these subjects before reading this book (trust me, you’ll want to do some research if you watch any professional football). 

Elliot “Elle” Reed is just as lacking in confidence as some of the other women we’ve seen in previous books in this series. If I were dealing with professional athletes pulling in millions of dollars each year and having hundreds, if not thousands, of groupies throwing themselves at these players, I’d probably be somewhat lacking in confidence as well. But Elle is also dealing with childhood issues from being biracial and not quite knowing how to fit into society as she was raised by her white father without any strong black role models or guidance. She’s had to quietly straddle the fence of both races without being fully embraced into either one and trying to live her life colorblind, the way she was raised. I can tell you that it isn’t going well. Quinton Howard Jr. is the new star quarterback for the Denver Mustangs and has become something of a problem issue by blacking out the league logo on his jersey at the start of each game and his taking a knee during the national anthem. He’s quiet and respectful to all, but he’s also using his voice and money to try and right some wrongs. Elle’s job is to make the Mustangs and the league look good, so she has to once again straddle the fence by keeping the team’s owner happy whilst also working with Quinton to assure his personal goals are met. Needless to say, there’s a bit of friction and attraction between the two. Will they be able to make things work or will things frizzle out? Hey, this is a romance, and what is a romance without a HEA. Yes, there is trouble. Not only for Quinton and Elle but also for “Vonnie” Lamar and her husband Justin Lamar. Most of the trouble gets resolved (not all, but most). This book deals with quite a number of issues, including racial identity, racism, systemic racism within certain professional sports leagues, lack of parity in the treatment of retired professional athletes (NFL vs. NBA for example), and more. Yes, these are heavy topics to be dealt with in a romance, but Ms. Martin deals with these issues without lightly glossing over them or being too heavy-handed, or at least she does so in this reader’s opinion. There are plenty of light-hearted moments (it is a romance, people) and some moments that just make you want to say “aww.” If you’ve read any of the previous books in this series, then you’ll definitely want to add Snapped to your immediate TBR list. If you haven’t read any of the books in this series and you enjoy romance, then you’ll definitely want to grab all three of the previous books as well as a copy of Snapped when it releases. Something tells me that I’ll be re-re-re-re-reading this series at some point soon (yes, I’m enjoying it just that much!). I’m hopeful that this isn’t the end of this series, simply because I want to read more about these amazing women along with their struggles, their careers, their friendships, their families, and yes, their romances. 

Happy Reading, y’all!

 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the “Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

2020 Book 165: OF LITERATURE AND LATTES by Katherine Reay


Of Literature and Lattes by Katherine ReayISBN: 9780785222040 (trade paperback) ISBN: 9780785222057 (ebook) ISBN: 9780785222064 (digital audiobook) ISBN: 9781799732648 (audiobook on CD) ASIN: B07TSQFJSX (Audible audiobook) ASIN: B07TG7T3CV (Kindle edition) Publisher: Thomas NelsonPublication Date: May 12, 2020

Return to the cozy and delightful town of Winsome, where two people discover the grace of letting go and the joy found in unexpected change.

After fleeing her hometown three years earlier, Alyssa Harrison never planned to return. Then the Silicon Valley start-up she worked for collapsed and turned her world upside down. She is broke, under FBI investigation, and without a place to go. Having exhausted every option, she comes home to Winsome, Illinois, to regroup and move on as quickly as possible. Yet, as friends and family welcome her back, Alyssa begins to see a place for herself in this small Midwestern community.

Jeremy Mitchell moved from Seattle to Winsome to be near his daughter and to open the coffee shop he’s been dreaming of for years. Problem is, the business is bleeding money—and he’s not quite sure why. When he meets Alyssa, he senses an immediate connection, but what he needs most is someone to help him save his floundering business. After asking for her help, he wonders if something might grow between them—but forces beyond their control soon complicate their already complex lives, and the future they both hoped for is not at all what they anticipated.

With the help of Winsome’s small-town charm and quirky residents, Alyssa and Jeremy discover the beauty and romance of second chances.




Welcome back to the town of Winsome, Illinois. We were introduced to this small town, a bedroom community located less than one hour away from Chicago in The Printed Letter Bookshop. We met the new owner of the bookshop, Madeline Cullen, and the store’s two employees, Janet—a divorcee who is estranged from her adult children due to marital infidelity issues, and Claire—a married and working mom who appears to have lost touch with her teenage children. All three women work hard to make the bookshop a viable retail store as well as make amends for past actions and oversight. Fast forward a few months and Janet’s daughter, Alyssa, is returning to Winsome after her tech company was closed due to fraud on the part of the company’s owner. Alyssa is desperate for a new job but is fearful of her return “home” especially if that means a return to her mother’s house. Alyssa doesn’t want to renew her relationship with her mother, but she has nowhere else to go. Fortunately for Alyssa, she has mad tech skills and her childhood BFF hires Alyssa to help with her family-owned restaurant. She then refers Alyssa to several other local business owners and although this isn’t the career she dreamed of, Alyssa is finally working in her field.
Just as Alyssa struggles to find her place in the world and in her family, Jeremy Mitchell, the owner of the local coffee shop, is struggling to make his business a success and find his place in Winsome. Jeremy relocated to Winsome to be closer to his daughter, but his move may have been for naught because his ex-wife is seriously considering moving to Tennessee for her job. Jeremy’s business is floundering and he isn’t sure what he can do to stop his ex-wife from leaving with their daughter.

I read and thoroughly enjoyed The Printed Letter Bookshop and was thrilled when I found out Ms. Reay was writing another book set in this small town. To say I was pleased when approved to read an early reader copy of Of Literature and Lattes is a massive understatement. Of course I had to re-read The Printed Letter Bookshop before reading Of Literature and Lattes just to refamiliarize myself with the characters and the town. I read Of Literature and Lattes in one sitting over a few hours. I didn’t even get up to fix more tea, the story was so engrossing. Initially, Alyssa comes across as somewhat temperamental, but when you factor in losing her job, being investigated by the FBI, and then being robbed of all of her possessions on her drive from California to Illinois, her moodiness is understandable and even forgivable to a certain extent. One of the many things I enjoyed about this story was the multiple and intersecting storylines. In many ways, Alyssa’s story felt like a coming-of-age story primarily because of her insecurity and family drama issues. Jeremy’s story was a bit different, but he also seemed to experience a self-awakening and acceptance that he needed help from his friend and co-worker. Jeremy was also dealing with some major family drama issues. Of Literature and Lattes came across as a highly realistic story with believable characters and action. Major themes include self-realization, self-awareness, family and community drama, friendship and trust issues, as well as romance. I could rhapsodize about this story, but I’ll simply say that if you’re interested in realistic fiction you should definitely read Of Literature and Lattes. If you’ve read The Printed Letter Bookshop, I encourage you to grab a copy of Of Literature and Lattes. If you enjoy reading books about books and community, then you’ll want to get yourself a copy of Of Literature and Lattes. I also encourage you to read The Printed Letter Bookshop just in case you haven’t read it. I’ve read and adored everything that Katherine Reay has written and I’ll probably be re-reading Of Literature and Lattes while I await her next book.

Happy Reading y’all!



Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2020 Book 81: THAT CAN BE ARRANGED by Huda Fahmy

That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story by Huda Fahmy
ISBN: 9781524856229 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781524861964 (ebook)
ASIN: B084DL8K2R  (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication Date: March 10, 2020


Chaperones, suitors, and arranged marriages aren’t only reserved for the heroines of a Jane Austen novel. They’re just another walk in the park for this leading lady, who is on a mission to find her leading lad. From the brilliant comics Yes, I’m Hot in This, Huda Fahmy tells the hilarious story of how she met and married her husband. Navigating mismatched suitors, gossiping aunties, and societal expectations for Muslim women, That Can Be Arranged deftly and hilariously reveals to readers what it can be like to find a husband as an observant Muslim woman in the twenty-first century.

So relevant in today’s evolving cultural climate, Fahmy’s story offers a perceptive and personal glimpse into the sometimes sticky but ultimately rewarding balance of independent choice and tradition.





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Imagine you’re a twenty-something-year-old female in a conservative Muslim American family. You’re not allowed to date and you’re not really interested in dating, but you are interested in getting married. (Certain Muslim cultures just don’t allow for dating y’all, get over it.) All of your friends are getting married. Your sisters are getting married. You, on the other hand, are not. This was Huda Fahmy’s life. Huda wasn’t seeking an “arranged marriage” per se, but she was looking for something akin to the marriages found in Jane Austen novels. As a matter of fact, she actually refers to Jane Austen novels in her search for the perfect husband. Muslims (and other cultures) prepare a dossier or “biodata” that is used to “match” compatible couples when all else fails, and at this point in Huda’s life, all else had pretty much failed (or had it). What is in this “biodata” you ask? Ms. Fahmy provides the perfect definition in her book:


“biodata (noun): personal information about one’s life, work, family, personality, goals, financial status, values, beliefs, health history, favorite Pokémon, and other preferences about things both religious and secular. Think super-detailed Tinder profile, except instead of dating, they’d get married.”


That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story is a quick read but one that had me laughing out loud, choking on my chai, and bookmarking pages to return and read later. Any author/artist that can reference Jane Austen, J.K. Rowling, and Pokémon in one book is beyond amazing in my opinion. Huda’s quest and it was a quest, for a husband was rife with hilarity. Although I know her story ended well (I follow her on social media), I was beginning to believe she might actually become a single cat lady at one point. (Hey, there’s nothing wrong with being single or owning cats). She pokes fun at the meddling aunties (trust me, read the book and you’ll understand this reference) and the variety of suitors she encounters throughout her quest. I cheered when she met Gehad and achieved her happily ever after, this is a love story, it says so in the title! FYI, this isn’t every Muslims’ story but it is one specific Muslimah’s story of growing up in this country and her quest to find love and get married within the bounds of her religious beliefs. Ms. Fahmy tells her story with style, grace, respect for the religion, and quite a bit of humor. Although this graphic novel/memoir discusses bits of Muslim culture and the Islamic faith, this is a book that can be read and appreciated by any reader. If you’re into graphic novels, memoirs, humor, or just want a quick read, I strongly encourage you to grab a copy of That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story by Huda Fahmy to read. If you can’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story and will be re-reading again in the near future. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Fahmy in the future.

Happy Reading y’all! 



Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2020 Book 47: PROMISED by Leah Garriott



Promised , Proper Romance Series, by Leah Garriott 
ISBN: 9781629726144 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9781629737973 (ebook)
ASIN: B081VS45P4  (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B082VK732L  (Kindle edition)
Publication date: February 18, 2020 
Publisher: Shadow Mountain


Margaret Brinton keeps her promises, and the one she is most determined to keep is the promise to protect her heart.

Warwickshire, England, 1812

Fooled by love once before, Margaret vows never to be played the fool again. To keep her vow, she attends a notorious matchmaking party intent on securing the perfect marital match: a union of convenience to someone who could never affect her heart. She discovers a man who exceeds all her hopes in the handsome and obliging rake Mr. Northam.

There’s only one problem. His meddling cousin, Lord Williams, won’t leave Margaret alone. Condescending and high-handed, Lord Williams lectures and insults her. When she refuses to give heed to his counsel, he single-handedly ruins Margaret’s chances for making a good match—to his cousin or anyone else. With no reason to remain at the party, Margaret returns home to discover her father has promised her hand in marriage—to Lord Williams.

Under no condition will Margaret consent to marrying such an odious man. Yet as Lord Williams inserts himself into her everyday life, interrupting her family games and following her on morning walks, winning the good opinion of her siblings and proving himself intelligent and even kind, Margaret is forced to realize that Lord Williams is exactly the type of man she’d hoped to marry before she’d learned how much love hurt. When paths diverge and her time with Lord Williams ends, Margaret is faced with her ultimate choice: keep the promises that protect her or break free of them for one more chance at love. Either way, she fears her heart will lose.





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Praise/Endorsements:

“Garriott’s impressive debut distinguishes itself with its expertly evoked Regency setting, a cast of realistically flawed yet eminently relatable characters, and a sweetly satisfying love story. Teen fans of Austen-era love stories will fall hard for this impeccably crafted romance.”Booklist

“Promising Regency-set debut. Vivid period details and the hero’s grand romantic efforts will please fans of historical romance.”Publishers Weekly



Review

Margaret Brinton doesn’t want a husband, especially after the fiasco of her last engagement, but she knows that society dictates she must have a husband. As a result, she decides that she will marry but she doesn’t want to marry for love and is willing to settle for a loveless marriage just so her brother can arrange his marriage and then her younger sister will be able to marry in the future without difficulties. It is for this reason that she accepts an invitation to join a weekend party at the home of friends of her mother where she will be introduced to potential suitors. Her brother Daniel thinks her plan is somewhat foolish, but he’s willing to go along as she doesn’t choose an inappropriate suitor. Fortunately, Margaret meets a man that she thinks will fulfill all of her requirements, Mr. Northam, a self-professed rake. Unfortunately for Margaret, both her brother and Mr. Northam’s cousin, Lord Williams are out to sabotage any possible match between these two. Lord Williams feels the only way he can save Margaret from herself and his cousin is by proposing marriage himself. What ensues is a series of grave misunderstandings and comedic errors that will either result in a love match between Lord Williams and Margaret or a hatred that will never fade. Can Margaret maintain the promise she made to herself or will she need to break it and make all new promises to marry for love?

I’ve been experiencing some serious vision-related issues as a side effect of the many years of chronic migraine and even with glasses, have difficulty focusing on the printed page for prolonged periods. I started off reading Promised in print form and the only reason I set this book aside was to request a digital galley from the publisher (changing font size, backlighting, etc. is quite helpful). Once I downloaded the digital galley, I finished the book in just a few hours. I quite enjoyed the Jane Austen mash-up, a little bit Pride and Prejudice mixed with a little bit of Sense and Sensibilty in this story. Margaret’s previous fiance is a little bit like Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility, Northam is a bit like George Wickham from Pride and Prejudice, and there’s even a Mr. Collins like character with Mr. Lundall. Margaret’s brother is a bit like Bingley with his relationship with Margaret’s best friend, Louisa, and Lord Williams is a cross between Darcy, Edward Ferrars, and even Colonel Brandon. Margaret’s younger sister Alice is much like Margaret Dashwood but gets seriously ill like Marianne Dashwood. Much of Promised focuses on the interactions and misunderstandings between Margaret and Lord Williams, but the story would be lost without all of the other characters. I enjoyed the action, settings, and the romance. I also enjoyed the flaws that each character exhibits because it made them more realistic and all-too-human. It may difficult for those of us in the 21st century to understand how marriage might be built on a relationship that develops without dating, texting, or even phone calls. Margaret and Gregory aka Lord Williams probably spend about 24 hours in each other’s company, but they learn quite a bit about the other’s sensibilities, values, sense of humor, and more. Promised is a sweet regency romance and one that I recommend to all of you romance fans, especially those of you that enjoy stories inspired by Jane Austen. Of course, you may read it and find that my take on the characters is completely different from yours. If so, please let us know what your thoughts are on the characters and action. I can’t wait to lend my print copy to my 85-y.o. mother to read. She enjoys these romances almost as much as I do. I hope you’ll add Promised by Leah Garriott to your TBR list. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

Happy Reading, y’all!



Disclaimer: I received a free print review copy of this book from the publisher as well as a digital review copy via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”




Meet the author


Though she earned degrees in math and statistics, Leah Garriott lives for a good love story. She has resided in Hawaii and Italy, has walked the countryside of England, and owns every mainstream movie version of Pride and Prejudice. She’s currently living her own happily ever after in Utah with her husband and three kids. Leah is represented by Sharon Pelletier at Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret.



Connect with the author via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or her Website.



This review and blog tour brought to you via Shadow Mountain Publishing

2019 Book 384: HUSBAND MATERIAL by Emily Belden



Husband Material  by Emily Belden 
ISBN: 9781525805981 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781488028571 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488206955 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07S38J7LP (Audible edition)
ASIN: B07KN7MJ42 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: December 30, 2019 
Publisher: Graydon House


Sometimes love is unpredictable…

Twenty-nine-year-old Charlotte Rosen has a secret: she’s a widow. Ever since the fateful day that leveled her world, Charlotte has worked hard to move forward. Great job at a hot social media analytics company? Check. Roommate with no knowledge of her past? Check. Adorable dog? Check. All the while, she’s faithfully data-crunched her way through life, calculating the probability of risk—so she can avoid it.

Yet Charlotte’s algorithms could never have predicted that her late husband’s ashes would land squarely on her doorstep five years later. Stunned but determined, Charlotte sets out to find meaning in this sudden twist of fate, even if that includes facing her perfectly coiffed, and perfectly difficult, ex-mother-in-law—and her husband’s best friend, who seems to become a fixture at her side whether she likes it or not.

But soon a shocking secret surfaces, forcing Charlotte to answer questions she never knew to ask and to consider the possibility of forgiveness. And when a chance at new love arises, she’ll have to decide once and for all whether to follow the numbers or trust her heart.




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Charlotte Rosen comes across as a strong, successful, and confident woman. A successful career woman proud of her accomplishments in the growing field of social media analytics. A woman who knows what she wants from life. These are all partial truths. Charlotte is successful in her career but she isn’t overly confident with her job or social life. She comes across as aloof when she’s actually somewhat of an introvert and closes herself off to protect her emotions. She has a roommate, but she doesn’t really share all that much with her. She has a “bestie” at work, but only shares work-related materials with her. Charlotte is looking for love and marriage and has created an app to help her determine the compatibility of any “match” she receives from online dating services. She’s confident in the app’s predictability but has yet to meet someone that fulfills her requirements. Well, she had met someone years ago. She had actually married that someone, but sadly, he had died after only one year of marriage. Charlotte has been a widow for five years and the only people that know are those from before she started a new life and job, her former in-laws, and her parents. Then a bombshell is dropped on Charlotte, figuratively speaking. She unexpectedly receives the urn containing her deceased husband’s cremains due to a fire at the cemetery. Charlotte’s emotions are in a serious state of flux. Her roommate is shocked to learn of Charlotte’s prior marriage. Charlotte’s mother-in-law wants to “repossess” the urn, and her employer has given her a forced two-week break as a result of her emotional state. The only good thing to come from this disastrous situation is that Charlotte has reconnected with an old friend, actually her deceased husband’s best friend, Dr. Brian Jackson. The friendship quickly develops into something a bit more and just when Charlotte thinks her life is getting back on track, she is thrown by several huge secrets. 

Husband Material is actually the first book I’ve read by Emily Belden (trust me, it won’t be the last), and one that I enjoyed from beginning to end. If anything, this was one story that I didn’t want to end simply because I enjoyed the interactions between Charlotte and her roommate Casey, Charlotte and Brian, and even the interactions between Charlotte and her former mother-in-law. I found the characters, action, and settings to be highly realistic and plausible. Charlotte isn’t a self-absorbed person, just someone afraid of being hurt and emotionally closed-off due to the untimely death of her husband. Yes, she wants to move on, but she has relegated everything in the present to an if this-then that scenario. She’s comfortable coding and has made every attempt to live her life by that binary code without thought about the limitations or repercussions toward herself or others. The primary lesson learned is the life and love can be unpredictable, unmanageable, and wholly unexpected. Although Husband Material is a romance, there are quite a lot of things going on in this story such as self-awareness, self-growth, grief management, and more. Although Husband Material deals with some heavy themes, this isn’t a dark and dour read. Okay, it’s not a light and fluffy read either, but it is an intriguing look at grief, recovery, and starting anew with a decidedly romantic bent. There are parts of the story that made me smile, parts that made me laugh, and parts that made me empathize with the sadness of the main character. If you’re looking for something a little different to read to wrap up your yearly reading or to begin the new year, I encourage you to grab a copy of Husband Material by Emily Belden. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2019 Book 270: ICE COLD HEART by P. J. Tracy

Ice Cold Heart, Monkeewrench #10, by P. J. Tracy 
ISBN: 9781643851327 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781643851334 (ebook)
ASIN: B07NTX8TGH (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 10, 2019 
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books


On a bitterly cold winter night, Kelly Ramage leaves her suburban home, telling her husband she’s going to meet a friend.

She never comes back.

When her body is discovered, murdered in what seems to be a sex game gone horribly wrong, Detectives Gino and Magozzi take the case, expecting to find a flirtatious trail leading straight to the killer.

However, Kelly’s sinister lover has done a disturbingly good job of hiding his identity. This isn’t his first victim – and that she won’t be the last…





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Grace MacBride and Leo Magozzi are enjoying a quiet winter with their lovely five-month-old daughter, Elizabeth. The Monkeewrench gang are also having a blast spoiling the daughter, aka princess, of their friend as well, especially Annie Belinsky and Harley Davidson. Roadrunner, yes that’s his legal name, enjoys the baby, but isn’t quite sure what to do with her just yet. The Monkeewrench team is working on a cryptocurrency theft, while Magozzi and his police partner, Gino Rolseth, are delighting in a homicide-free break. Of course, as soon as Magozzi says he’s enjoying the homicide-free break, a homicide occurs and it does so right after a so-called psychic comes into the station to forwarn him and Gino of an impending murder. The victim was apparently exploring a BDSM relationship outside the boundaries of her marriage and was found handcuffed to a bed, tortured, and her head wrapped in duct tape. The strange thing was that there were no signs of an apparent sexual component. When Magozzi and Gino discover that there was a similar crime over a thousand miles away and it appeared to be linked to an art show that their victim attended they begin to wonder if this is one coincidence too many. Just when it seems like there are too many coincidences and random occurrences happening with this case, Roadrunner saves the life of one of his neighbors who just happens to be a friend of the psychic who just happens to be the next murder victim. What does this all have to do with the strange and twisted art of one seriously introverted artist? What, if anything, ties all of this to a sadistic war criminal in the former Czech Republic? What does cryptocurrency have to do with any of this? Will Magozzi, Gino, and the Monkeewrench crew be able to figure things out before someone else dies or is this criminal too smart and too fast to be caught?

Grace, Annie, Harley, and Roadrunner have come a long way since the first book in the Monkeewrench series. They are all a bit more trusting of law enforcement and willing to work with agencies across the United States by offering free software to help these agencies stop and capture criminals. Grace is in a stable, romantic relationship and has softened quite a bit since the birth of her daughter, Elizabeth. She still carries a firearm with her at all times, but she’s down to one gun instead of two (massive improvement). Annie and Harley are still at the bickering push-pull stage of their relationship and it is questionable if it will ever develop into anything beyond that. Roadrunner has remained an enigma throughout these books and remains so, but Ice Cold Heart reveals a bit more about his background and softens him quite a bit with his attraction to his neighbor, Petra. Magozzi and Gino are the perfect cop partnership in that they complement one another in almost every way, know each other’s weaknesses, and have one another’s backs when necessary. Ice Cold Heart is the tenth book in the Monkeewrench series and the characters now seem like old friends. I enjoyed the international component to this story with the vicious and sadistic Czech war criminal, the incorporation of the cryptocurrency theft, and of course the ever popular murder, mayhem, mischief, and mystery. For those of you that have read and enjoyed the previous books in the Monkeewrench series, I encourage you to grab a copy of Ice Cold Heart to read. For those of you that have never read the Monkeewrench series but enjoy reading topical mystery thrillers that incorporate a bit of high-tech to spice things up, then I encourage you to add all of the books in this series to your TBR list. I hope there will be more to read in the Monkeewrench series in the future. You know how much I love to reread books, so yes you guessed it, I’ll have to comfort myself by re-reading the entire series from book 1, Monkeewrench through to book 10, Ice Cold Heart while I wait. I only hope you enjoy this series as much as I do. Happy Reading, y’all!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2019 Book 164: THE ROAD SHE LEFT BEHIND by Christine Nolfi

The Road She Left Behind by Christine Nolfi
ISBN: 9781542004213 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781721388073 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07KYGDZRW (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: June 11, 2019


Three women. Two families torn apart by secrets.

Crushed by guilt over the car accident that killed her father and sister, and torn apart by her mother’s resentment, Darcy Goodridge fled her family estate eight years ago and hasn’t looked back. Now an unexpected phone call threatens to upend what little serenity she’s found. Her nephew, Emerson, who was just a baby when his mother died, has gone missing. Darcy must return home and face her past in order to save him.

Once back in Ohio, Darcy realizes there’s more to Emerson’s disappearance—and to the sudden retirement of her mother, Rosalind—than meets the eye. As she works to make inroads with Rosalind, Darcy begins to unravel a decades-old secret that devastated her family and forced a wedge between her and Michael Varano, the man she left heartbroken when she vanished after the funeral. After carrying the scars of that fateful night for almost a decade, Darcy is determined to find closure, healing, and maybe even love where she lost them all in the first place—right back home where she belongs.







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Darcy Goodridge has spent the past eight years of her life running away from her family and life. She doesn’t spend more than one year in any job or town. She has no close friends. She doesn’t keep in contact with her family. When she left Ohio after the tragic accident that claimed her younger sister and father’s lives, she cut off all ties. Yes, she had promised her sister that she would take care of her nephew if anything happened, but she knew her mother — a well-respected judge, would never allow that to happen. Darcy is packed and ready to leave South Carolina in her rear view mirror and head to New Jersey for a new job placement, when she receives a phone call from her mother’s housekeeper and her surrogate mother, Latrice, telling her that her eight-year-old nephew Emerson has run away from home. Darcy is prepared to ignore this call for help until the one friend she’s made in eight years, an eighteen-year-old former foster child, talks her into returning home with him in tow. Needless to say, the last thing Darcy’s mother expects to see on her doorstep is Darcy, much less Darcy accompanied by an eighteen-year-old, Black male, dread wearing former foster child. Fortunately, Samson has a way about him and is able to worm his way into Latrice’s good graces and even strikes up a tentative relationship with Darcy’s mother Rosalind. Emerson is found safe and without harm, but his return home leads to a bombshell that will rock the Goodridge family. For someone that has spent years running away from the past, Darcy now must confront it and deal with all of the fallout. That fallout includes her mother’s declining health, revelations about her father and adored sister, and facing the love she left behind all those years ago. Is it possible to return home and mend the bridges we thought we burnt down?

I’m always excited when I hear about a new Christine Nolfi story. Her stories incorporate lots of realistic family drama often dealing with highly dysfunctional contemporary situations (some resolved, some not), multigenerational friendships, secrets, and romance. Needless to say, I jumped for joy (figuratively) when I received notice that I was going to be able to read and review The Road She Left Behind. I was eager to read this book in one sitting, but had to deal with a weather-induced migraine and then taking my mother out for her weekly grocery shopping. I liked all of the characters in The Road She Left Behind including the curmudgeonly and strict Rosalind Goodridge, Darcy’s mother. The eight-year-old Emerson and eighteen-year-old Samson provided some great comic relief at times, but I could emotionally relate to both of these guys. Emerson was struggling to be mature because that’s what his grandmother expected, whereas Samson was rather immature and naive for his age, but could come out with these amazingly prescient statements due to his observational skills. Samson had never been in a true family setting and expected a wealthy family to be happy. He was quite shocked to learn that Darcy’s family was anything but happy despite their wealth and privilege. Darcy and Michael’s friendship is gradually rebuilt as well as their romance. Yes, there’s a lot going on in The Road She Left Behind, but if I told you everything you wouldn’t need to read the book. If you’ve ever read anything by Ms. Nolfi, then I don’t have to tell you to get a copy of this book as soon as possible but I will anyway. If you’ve never read anything by Ms. Nolfi, then The Road She Left Behind might be a good book to start with, especially if you enjoy stories with family angst, drama, and romance. For now, I’m eagerly awaiting my purchased copy of The Road She Left Behind to download on the release day and I plan on spending the very next weekend leisurely rereading this book, hopefully without interruptions.



Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the author via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2019 Book 143: THE NIGHT WINDOW by Dean Koontz

The Night Window Jane Hawk #5 by Dean Koontz
ISBN: 9780525484707 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780525484714 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781543627336 (audiobook)

ASIN: B07GMS9JXT (Kindle edition)

Publisher: Bantam Books
Publication Date: May 14, 2019


#1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz brings Jane Hawk’s one-woman war to an explosive climax as the rogue FBI agent wages her final battle against a terrifying conspiracy–for vengeance, for justice, and for humanity’s freedom. 

Groundbreaking, wholly involving, eerily prescient and terrifyingly topical, Dean Koontz’s Jane Hawk series sets a new standard for contemporary thrillers. Since her sensational debut in The Silent Corner, readers have been riveted by Jane Hawk’s resolute quest to take down the influential architects of an accelerating operation to control every level of society via an army of mind-altered citizens. At first, only Jane stood against the “Arcadian” conspirators, but slowly others have emerged to stand with her, even as there are troubling signs that the “adjusted” people are beginning to spin viciously out of control. Now, in the thrilling, climactic showdown that will decide America’s future, Jane will require all her resources–and more–as she confronts those at the malevolent, impregnable center of power.





What do you do when the lives and safety of your loved ones are being threatened by a shadow cabal that seeks to use technology to rid itself of any perceived threats as well as make key individuals in government, law enforcement, banking, media, etc. agents for your cabal? Well, if you’re name is Jane Hawk, you fight and fight dirty. In The Silent Window Jane’s husband Nick had been forced to commit suicide by this shadow cabal known as the Techno Arcadians and her five-year-old son’s life had been threatened. She took a leave-of-absence from the FBI, sold everything she could sell, hid her son away and went hunting the leadership of this cabal. In the second book, The Whispering Room, Jane along with Minnesota Sheriff Luther Tillman, discover an entire town in Kentucky filled with “adjusted” adults, learn the phrases to control these people, and rescue all of the children from the town. Book three, The Crooked Staircase, has Jane going up against a key government agent, and Techno Arcadian, his brother, and some of her deepest fears in an effort to stay a few steps ahead of the game of cat-and-mouse. By book four, The Forbidden Door, the Techno Arcadians have figured out where Jane has hidden her son and are fast on his trail. His surrogate aunt and uncle, friends to Jane and her husband, do their best to keep Travis away from harm and die protecting him. Fortunately, Jane and her new found friends, an 82-year-old retired wig maker – Bernie Riggowitz, and Sheriff Tillman help her rescue Travis and his new caregiver, Cornell Jasperson before it’s too late. 

Because of Jane’s law enforcement background, keen intelligence, and desire to protect her son, she’s always been able to stay one or two steps ahead of the Arcadians in their search to keep her from discovering more of their secrets. She now has the assistance of her former FBI colleague, Vikram Rangnekar, an IT specialist, to help plan her final steps. Vikram has somewhat boldly left the FBI, accessed one of Jane’s compatriots to get vehicles, and is working feverishly to backdoor into numerous databases (including the a few belonging to the government) to ascertain who is involved with the Techno Arcadians, who’s on the adjusted list, where their money is coming from, and how it’s being channeled. All Jane has to do is stay alive…or that’s what she thought. She has to stay alive and keep Vikram alive whilst battling her former partners in crime and the Techno Arcadians and the bad guys are closing fast. Unbeknownst to Jane, a burglar targets Bernie’s daughter’s house, finds Travis, and attempts to “sell” him to his Vegas fence. In just a few short weeks, Jane has had so many fires to put out and has been portrayed as public enemy number one in the media. Her disguises are no longer effective, her vehicle is being tracked a little too fast to her liking, and she’s running out of options. Will she be able to discover the truth about the Techno Arcadians and reveal it to the world before it’s too late? Will Travis be sold away without her knowledge? Can the Techno Arcadians be put down without a massive fight? Can good and righteousness triumph over evil?

I slowly savored The Night Window by Dean Koontz simply because I knew it was the last book in the Jane Hawk series and I didn’t want the story to end. I normally read a book in a day, but I kept putting this one down because I didn’t want it to end. The themes of a shadowy government-within-a-government cabal, use of technology to make us blind sheep willing to follow any command, unlimited use of governmental law enforcement powers to coerce, harm, and kill anyone that gets in their way were all incredibly scary to read about or even think of as a possibility. Having said that, Mr. Koontz presented all of these fantastical ideas in such a way that it seemed not only plausible but probable rather than a bit too science-fiction fantasy or out-of-this-world. I loved meeting Jane Hawk, her son Travis, Jane’s in-laws – Ancel and Clare Hawk, her friends Gavin and Jessica Washington, Gavin’s cousin – Cornell Jasperson, retired wig-maker Bernie Riggowitz, IT specialist extraordinaire Vikram Rangnekar, and more. There are bad guys and even worse guys that appear throughout each book. Some live to see another day and some do not. The heart of the Jane Hawk series isn’t simply a shadow cabal and a conspiracy, but one person uncovering this cabal and conspiracy and going out of her way to do the right thing and get justice for her deceased husband and the thousands of others killed and targeted by this group with the help of a few friends. If you enjoy well-written, gripping, suspenseful thrillers with plenty of twists, then I strongly encourage you to read the Jane Hawk series. If you’ve read the previous books in this series, you’ll definitely want to read The Night Window just to see how it all ends (no, I’m not telling). I enjoyed the action, the characters (okay, just the good guys), and the settings. I, for one, am sad to say goodbye to Jane, Travis, Bernie, Luther, Cornell, and the gang. Thank you, Mr. Koontz, for another gripping story and introducing us all to Jane Hawk.
Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”




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2018 Book 269: THE DREAM DAUGHTER by Diane Chamberlain

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain
ISBN: 9781250087300 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250087324 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781427287465 (audiobook)
ASIN: B079DW36TK (Kindle edition)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: October 2, 2018 


From bestselling author Diane Chamberlain comes an irresistible new novel.


When Caroline Sears receives the news that her unborn baby girl has a heart defect, she is devastated. It is 1970 and there seems to be little that can be done. But her brother-in-law, a physicist, tells her that perhaps there is. Hunter appeared in their lives just a few years before—and his appearance was as mysterious as his past. With no family, no friends, and a background shrouded in secrets, Hunter embraced the Sears family and never looked back. 

Now, Hunter is telling her that something can be done about her baby’s heart. Something that will shatter every preconceived notion that Caroline has. Something that will require a kind of strength and courage that Caroline never knew existed. Something that will mean a mind-bending leap of faith on Caroline’s part.

And all for the love of her unborn child.

A rich, genre-spanning, breathtaking novel about one mother’s quest to save her child, unite her family, and believe in the unbelievable. Diane Chamberlain pushes the boundaries of faith and science to deliver a novel that you will never forget.     



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Caroline “Carly” Sears has already suffered one massive blow in 1970 when she’s informed that her husband was killed in Vietnam. Now, she’s told that the baby she’s carrying has a life-threatening heart condition and will not live more than a few days after being born. Fetal ultrasound is still in its infancy in 1970 and fetal surgery isn’t something that’s even being considered. There’s nothing that medicine at that time can do to heal her unborn child. Fortunately, her brother-in-law has a possible solution to the problem. It’s an off-the-wall bizarre, out-of-this-world, Twilight Zone-esque solution, but a solution nonetheless. The only question now is just how much Carly is willing to trust Hunter and how far she’s willing to go to help her unborn child.  

I found The Dream Daughter to be a fast-paced and enthralling read. I always enjoy reading stories by Diane Chamberlain and this one was quite unexpected in that it threw in a nice little twist, okay several unexpected twists. No, I won’t tell you what those twists were, it is sufficient to say that this is not your typical Diane Chamberlain story but it really works, unexpected twists and all. For much of the story, Carly is like a fish out of water and trying to adapt to the best of her abilities and she has a steep learning curve (trust me, it’ll all make sense when you read the book). Without giving away too many details, there are three separate timelines in this story and they all intersect with Carly as the common factor (again, it’ll make sense when you read the book). I wish I could give you more details but if I did, I’d be giving away too much of the story and I really don’t want to do that. I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, settings, and action in this story. I can also say that if you’re a fan of stories involving time-travel or if you’ve read anything by Ms. Chamberlain in the past, you’ll want to read The Dream Daughter. This story captured the essence of motherhood and just how far mothers are willing to go and what they’re willing to do to protect their children. The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain is going on my list of recommended reads from 2018 (this has been an amazing reading year!).

Disclaimer:  I received a free print copy from the publisher as well as a digital review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the



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