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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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LITTLE BROKEN THINGS: A Novel ~Nicole Baart

Monday, December 18th, 2017

LITTLE BROKEN THINGS is a very good read and although about family dysfunction it is a story that could be true for many individuals and is very believable and interesting.  I enjoyed reading every page and did not hurry through to the finish even though I was not sure I had figured out the truth early on in the read.

The Sanford family lives in a small town and the father figure had sold real estate and was quite successful.  He got along famously with his son Jack but was rather tough on his daughters Nora and Quinn.  Liz the mom was a stay at home provider and found herself distant from her grown children.  The family was dealing with the loss of their father, Liz was trying to figure out what came next in her life and Jack’s wife was expecting the first grand child.   Quinn and her artist husband had just returned home and were living in a family rental unit and Nora had all but disappeared from their lives.  There were secrets that made a difference!

Nora surprises Quinn by suddenly, with no explanation and vowed secrecy, drops off a child for her to keep hidden and safe.  Little Lucy is quiet and sullen and has an interesting connection to the Sanford family.  The mystery needs to be solved.

There is a good deal about sexual predators and drug usage in the story and definitely Nora is on the run a great deal of the time.  The story includes interesting ideas about what is a loving relationship and how to be on one’s own, what should be done next to live life?  Lots of questioning until there is resolution for the child and path finding for the members of the family; it is very nice storytelling.

The family was well respected in the community and daughters were expected to go to college and come home to marry their sweetheart producing the next generation of the community.  The secrets would change the pattern over and over.  What the community did not know about this family kept them pillars and leaders.

I liked the book very much because of the character names also, as one of the characters has one of my daughter’s names and that of course made the story fun.  And the characteristics described for the name were very much in keeping with my child’s characteristics.

I definitely would recommend this story and I thought it was timely about drugs and sexual predation, which is big time in the news at this time and an important subject to bring to the light.

Nicole Baart is the mother of five children from four different countries. The co-founder of a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope, she lives in a small town in Iowa. She is the author of seven previous novels, including, most recently, The Beautiful Daughters. Find out more at NicoleBaart.com.

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THE INNKEEPER’S SISTER: A Southern Romance and Historic Mystery Novel ~Linda Goodnight

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

THE INNKEEPER’S SISTER is certainly a wonderful beach read and I tucked it into my gear for a long weekend of wave watching and page turning.  I am not a great fan of Southern Romance and yet Goodnight’s characters are quite real and not so sticky sweet and the historic mystery was a nice glimpse into the reconstruction period after the Civil War.  (It did not omit that slavery was an issue – thank goodness for that)

About the Author:

“NY Times and USA Bestseller, Linda Goodnight writes novels to touch the heart as well as to entertain. Her emotional stories of hope have won the RITA, the Carol, the Reviewer’s Choice, and numerous other industry awards. A small town girl, Linda remains close to her roots, making her home in rural Oklahoma. She and husband have a blended family of eight, including two teenagers recently adopted from Ukraine. Many of her books are about family and children and rightly so, as she draws her deeply emotional stories from her surroundings, her great love of family, and from personal experiences as a nurse and teacher.” (TLC book tours page)

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THE INNKEEPER’s SISTER is also about recovery after a child has been abducted and how life goes on years later.  Two sisters have purchased an old orchard and have refurbished with skill the house into a stunning bed and breakfast.  This gives them purpose and vision and keeps Julie moving ahead and making new plans.  For Valerie it is not so important to her and she understands the value of the endeavor, but she longed to be a professional dancer and now she cannot move ahead in that direction.  She has started using alcohol to cope with her secrets and continue to hide.

Grayson Blake is a developer and he and his brother find old landmarks to refurbish and turn into 5 star restaurants.   He has come to Honey Ridge and Old Peach Orchard to revitalize an old Mill and develop a new destination restaurant.  The new construction is halted because a pile of bones has been discovered in the basement of the mill near the water wheel.   Grayson stays at the bed and breakfast and reconnects with a high school friend.  Together they find old sheet music that is actually a code that leads to some answers about the mystery and the history of the farm.

The Civil War elements of the story expose the new possibilities for the former slaves and share the details of the farm’s own love story and the role of the house as a hospital for soldiers.  Very interesting.

Over the years of reviewing books, I have read another of Linda Goodnight’s stories and thought it was quite good.  There is a caring quality to the stories and some down to earth good solutions to problems.  Time does not heal all wounds but it is certainly part of the recovery process.

I think many folks will enjoy this story and the gentle touch of the author.

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SECRETS OF THE TULIP SISTERS: A Captivating Story about Sisters, Secrets, and Second Chances ~Susan Mallery

Monday, July 31st, 2017

SECRETS OF THE TULIP SISTERS turned out to be one terrific read and I learned lots about how to grow tulips and had no idea it was so difficult and so important for Christmas time.  I just thought tulips were wonderfully beautiful field trip destination in the northern climes of my state.  The stunning beauty of the tulip fields was a delightful location for a story about secrets and romance.  Actually, it is three romances all wrapped up into one family and one good and interesting read.

About Susan Mallery

Susan Mallery is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of books about the relationships that define women’s lives—romance, friendship, family. With compassion and humor, Susan keenly observes how people think and feel, in stories that take readers on an emotional journey. Sometimes heartbreaking, often funny, and always uplifting, Susan’s books have spent more than 200 weeks on the USA Today bestsellers list, thanks to her ever growing legions of fans.

Critics, too, have heaped praise on “the new queen of romantic fiction.” (Walmart) Booklist says, “Romance novels don’t get much better than Mallery’s expert blend of emotional nuance, humor, and superb storytelling,” and RT Book Reviews puts her “in a class by herself!”

Although Susan majored in Accounting, she never worked as an accountant because she was published straight out of college with two books the same month, January of 1992. Sixteen prolific years and seventy-four books later, she hit the New York Times bestsellers list for the first time with Accidentally Yours in 2008. She made many appearances in the Top 10 before (finally) hitting #1 in 2015 with Thrill Me, the twentieth book in her most popular series, the Fool’s Gold romances, and the fourth of five books released that year.

Susan lives in Seattle with her husband, two ragdoll cats, and a tattletale toy poodle. Her heart for animals has led Susan to become an active supporter of the Seattle Humane Society. Animals play a big role in her books, as well, as she believes they’re an integral component to a happy life. (From TLC Website)

I believe that SECRETS OF THE TULIP SISTERS might be based on a friend’s life story.  The mother in this story truly is just as awful and manipulative as my childhood friend’s mother although that woman kept her family on the move constantly. This mother left her family and stayed on the move herself.

Kelly has stayed at home working with her father on their tulip farm.  She works with fancy blooms and hybrids and she works long and hard.  Her love life is not very exciting and a small, rural town is not very good at supplying partners.  Her father kept the 15 and 12- year – old daughters after their mother left and Kelly just worked her best to keep everything on track.

Olivia went to boarding school and then on to college and followed an old high school boyfriend around for a while and then was invited to join her mother in her real estate business in Arizona.   That idea was not working out so well and Olivia felt a need to keep trying to find what she was good at and what she could do for a career.  She travels north to spend time with her father and sister.  This causes the sisters to rediscover each other and the secrets to fester.

The love of a couple of really good fellows allows the girls to face up to their situations and to free up the secrets; revealing good ol’ dad’s love interest and his desire to move forward with his life too.

My book groups do not read romance books, but I think each one of them would enjoy this story as they travel for the summer and as they relax on the beach.  I enjoyed this story at the ocean and that the story was interesting had substance and was not a huge bodice ripper with no real plot. One very well written sex scene was a good distraction.  A fun read for sure.  I would recommend THE SECRETS OF THE TULIP SISTERS

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