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THE STORY OF OUR LIVES: A Novel about Friends ~Helen Warner

Monday, February 12th, 2018

THE STORY OF OUR LIVES is a wonderful read about four friends who meet at University and remain friends over the course of their lives.  I just cozied right into this story and enjoyed the lovely conversations and problem solving involved in the women’s lives.  The language was supportive and yet the friends were able to speak clearly to each other and challenge the best of their endeavors.  Secrets were uncovered over the years and those lead to positive interactions and healthy outcomes.

There are several love stories within the book and that makes for fun dialogue and group attention.  The 4 women meet for long weekends nearly every year to catch up, enjoy their transitions and offer work related changes and opportunities.  Two of the women have big jobs in Television and Communications, one just wants to be a wife and mother to her wealthy fellow, and the fourth is a single parent who must make survival decisions about her work so she can fully parent her child.  Each character has a particular crisis to overcome and it is just terrific to understand how the friends draw together to assist in the resolutions and better outcomes.   The men in the story are definitely a part of the story, yet only one male is developed and helps with the parenting parts of the stories of their lives.

I loved the different cottages that the women spent their weekends at and how they divided up the cooking and the tasks at hand while keeping relaxation and true connections their highest priority.  This gave me a bit of a travel perspective about the UK and other warm and trendy spots for 20 – 40 somethings to be attracted to and enjoy.  I, of course, like the English expressions which are so precise compared to casual Americanisms and slang.  These women were driven to stay connected and not lose the friendship because of lack of attention to words and communications.

In the last several years I have read a number of best friend stories.  Communications and intentions to hold on the friendship seem to be the most successful role of these stories.  Being a friend is a considerable amount of work and it makes me think that younger women need to know that it is work and the communication skills are tantamount in the process.  THE STORY OF OUR LIVES did have glamour and a number of crisis points, the writer’s words flowed and the sentence structures were good and made the story move without feeling sloppy.  I would have loved to have such a nice group of friends in my younger years and rather envied the women in this story.

A lovely rainy afternoon read and a joy to know that maybe there are such nice groups happening currently.

About Helen Warner

Helen Warner is head of daytime for Channel 4, where she is responsible for shows such as Come Dine With Me and Deal Or No Deal. Previously she worked for ITV where she launched the daytime talk show Loose Women and was editor of This Morning. She lives in East Anglia with her husband and their two children.

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THE HIDEAWAY: A First Novel ~Lauren K. Denton

Monday, April 17th, 2017

THE HIDEAWAY turned out to be a hard story for me to review.  I need to start with my disclaimer:  I worked in Alabama for a short period of time.  I was never in my life treated as rudely by the people of Alabama in my entire life.  I met several amazing women and lawyers while I was there, and I left with lasting memories of heat, sweat and unhappy human beings – I will never forget and this story was about some of those kinds of people.

We have a sweet Southern story about a lovely retreat location called Sweet Bay.  THE HIDEAWAY is two love stories, one from long ago; you know, the 1960s and one more contemporary.  It is the perfect beach read and the author loves reading at the beach.  She knows her locations.  The read is slow, interesting and well paced for a leisurely afternoon.  The early characters are charming and a bit rebellious; they are developed throughout the whole read as the stories go from Grandmother to Granddaughter chapter to chapter.

“When her grandmother’s will wrenches Sara back home from New Orleans, she learns more about Margaret Van Buren in the wake of her death than she ever did in life.”

Maggie was a good Southern white girl and she married for money and then found out that her charming spouse was sleeping around.  After three years of this kind of abuse she packs her car and leaves for somewhere else and discovers THE HIDEAWAY.  There she discovers her work in caring for the house and the B & B tenants, who are primarily artists.  The house is losing money for the owner who leaves it to Maggie in a whirlwind departure.  Maggie falls in love with a woodworker who builds furniture.  She is loyal to the end of her life to her love and THE HIDEAWAY.

Sara lives with her Grandmother Maggie but does not appreciate her differences and her unique rebellious nature.  She discovers her Grandmother’s truth as she spruces up THE HIDEAWAY leaving her home decorating business to a friend’s care in New Orleans.  She falls in love with a carpenter.  Lots of wood and tree descriptions fill the story and the reader wonders casually about the synchronicity or the symbolism wrapped up in the “beauty” of it all.

TLC Book Tours  sent an advanced copy of THE HIDEAWAY for review.  It was an early PDF copy and it needed more editing.  My favorite blooper in the copy I received – made me laugh out loud!

“Mitch sat in the chair next to me, emptied when the previous occupant excused himself to go to the ladies’ room.”

I did not care for the main contemporary character – Sara.  She did not have the spunk or charisma of her Grandmother and she was just so sweet she nearly dripped with her charm.  She could not really connect with her Grandmother and did not try – though she appeared to like her and phoned her to check in sometimes – she feels entitled.  Sara is totally dependent on the males in her life to make decisions except about furniture and remodeling.  She has no depth perception – not a clue.  Everyone needed to help her right to the end.  I am sure she voted against women on her ballot; Sara needed men.  I know several folks who will like this book very much, I on the other hand was happy to come to the last page of THE HIDEAWAY

Lauren K. Denton:

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren K. Denton now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books. The Hideaway is her first novel.

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EVERYTHING WE KEEP: A Novel ~Kerry Lonsdale

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

It is Aimee’s wedding day but instead of celebrating the family is attending the groom’s memorial service.  The reader is right into the first plot twist and the mystery of this romantic love story.  A mystery woman tells the tearful bride that James is still alive at the reception!

The first part of EVERYTHING WE KEEP is about Aimee’s loss and her sadness and her resolve to hang on to the possibility that James just might be still alive. They have truly been a couple since they were young children and have been committed to each other for nearly their whole lives.   Aimee’s parents own an Irish Pub and James’ family is very wealthy and own an Import/Export company.  The groom’s family has very high expectations for their sons and are demanding with their rules and enforcement.  Aimee’s family is more relaxed and easy going and they offer James a haven where he can explore other options for his life.

Aimee has wonderful supportive friends and she begins exploring her own life options and opens a gourmet café and coffee shop.  She loves to bake and the foods the author shares are quite delicious.  She also meets someone who thinks she is pretty special too.  The new fellow is very respectful of her feelings and they become good friends.

Part II of the story is the unraveling of the mystery and the return of the mystery woman.  It is very interesting to figure out how the story unravels and the points of trauma, which produced this outcome.

The writing is very good and the story moves at a nice pace; not just escape reading but some interesting thoughts and developments.  I could have enjoyed this book on vacation or on a rainy weekend.  There was enough about beautiful clothes and hair to even keep younger readers interested.

TLC Book Tours sent me an e-copy of this book to read and review.   This book already has over 2,200 4.5 star reviews on Amazon.  It is free for folks who have Kindle Unlimited.

About Kerry Lonsdale

Kerry Lonsdale believes life is more exciting with twists and turns, which may be why she enjoys dropping her characters into unexpected scenarios and foreign settings. She graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and is a founder of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, an online community of authors located across the globe. She resides in Northern California with her husband, two children, and an aging golden retriever who’s convinced she’s still a puppy. Everything We Keep is Kerry’s first novel.

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WE’RE ALL DAMAGED: A Novel ~Matthew Norman

Monday, June 6th, 2016

Have you ever hoped that someone who hurt you would find a bit of punishment? Maybe not really full on retribution or revenge, but a bit of pain or struggle – just enough?  WE’RE ALL DAMAGED is about recovery from a big hurt except the struggle keeps arriving at the door step of the victim and in quite funny ways.

Andy has escaped from his hurt self /life in Omaha, Nebraska to land in NYC and become a bartender.  Karen, his now ex-wife just announced at Applebee’s one night that she was done with the marriage and Andy.  Our hero is very sensitive and is left in pain, needs release from his job and to find new turf in hopes of recovery.  A year into his new surroundings he is still obsessed by his ex when he gets the call that his Grandfather is dying in Omaha and he needs to come “home.”  On the way to his apartment, Andy is hit by a bicyclist and suffers a bruised face and black eye; he will decide to head to Omaha anyway since his mother has purchased a ticket.

WE’RE All DAMAGED continues with proving this title to be true as Andy reconnects with his family, his former in-laws and is able visit his Grandfather in hospice.  Mom is a conservative radio talk show host who is opposed to Marriage Equality.  Dad is a retired accountant; brother Jim is a workaholic with two young children. The parents have moved to a new mansion of a house where Dad tries to shoot the squirrels in his bird feeders with a paint ball gun and Mom is working to get a contract with Fox News.  An interesting young woman and a senior in a blue bathrobe with matching slippers enhance the story and give it some bazaar twists and turns.

I had several laugh out loud moments reading this story and was so happy TLC Book Tours http://tlcbooktours.com/2016/02/matthew-norman-author-of-were-all-damaged-on-tour-june-2016/ sent me a copy for review.  It was satisfying, humorous, and very entertaining.

From the Cover:

“Matthew Norman lives in Baltimore with his wife and their two daughters.  His writing has appeared on SALON, the GOOD MEN PROJECT, and the WEEKLINGS.  His first novel, DOMESTIC VIOLETS, was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in Best Humor.”

Matthew Norman BLOG
Matthew Norman TWITTER: @TheNormanNation

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