Book Review: Harmony

“HARMONY,” BY CAROLYN PARKHURST

PUBLISHER: PAMELA DORMAN BOOKS; AUGUST 2, 2016

harmonySynopsis: How far will a mother go to save her family? The Hammond family is living in DC, where everything seems to be going just fine, until it becomes clear that the oldest daughter, Tilly, is developing abnormally–a mix of off-the-charts genius and social incompetence. Once Tilly–whose condition is deemed undiagnosable–is kicked out of the last school in the area, her mother Alexandra is out of ideas. The family turns to Camp Harmony and the wisdom of child behavior guru Scott Bean for a solution. But what they discover in the woods of New Hampshire will push them to the very limit. Told from the alternating perspectives of both Alexandra and her younger daughter Iris (the book’s Nick Carraway), this is a unputdownable story about the strength of love, the bonds of family, and how you survive the unthinkable.

Some of my readers know from my bio or our conversations that I was a Special Education teacher for many, many years. What you probably do not know that my passion and concentration for most of my teaching career was students having emotional and behavioral disabilities (called different things in different states), which means when a child was considered “somewhere on the spectrum,” that typically meant that they were in classes that I taught and/or I was assigned as their case manager. Why am I telling you all of this? Basically, that is why I was so interested in “Harmony” when I saw that it was available for review and I can think of about 50 parents from my teaching career that I think would really relate to the parents in this novel.

“Harmony” tells the story of Tilly Hammond, a 13-year-old that has been diagnosed with a million things throughout her childhood, eventually determined as “somewhere on the spectrum of autism.” The novel is narrated by Tilly’s 11-year-old sister Iris, and their mother Alexandra. Tilly was reading and doing complex math problems as a toddler, but has struggled with social skills resulting in tantrums, inappropriate conversations, and inappropriate language. Tilly is removed from school after school, even a school specifically for students with special needs. Alexandra’s husband the girls’ father, Josh, is a bit more relaxed about their lives with Tilly, but their marriage is frequently strained because of the stress. Like any frustrated, concerned parent would do, Alexandra seeks answers and assistance on how to help Tilly and to try to regain control of their family.

This leads Alexandra to Scott Bean. Scott provides workshops and meets with families in order to address behavior problems in children, and Alexandra quickly believes that he could be the solution to their problems. Alexandra assists Scott in establishing Camp Harmony, a place for families to visit, live, and work together in order to help their children with their social and emotional disabilities. As things continue to spiral out of control for the Hammond family, they come to the conclusion that it would be best for their family to join Scott and two other families to live and work at Camp Harmony. Yes, I’m sure you’re already screaming, “cult,” but initially, it seems like a happy and healthy lifestyle of working together for the benefit of everyone, all tucked into the woods of New Hampshire. Quickly after their arrival, and as guest families begin to arrive each week, the real Scott Bean begins shining through.

Carolyn Parkhurst has written such an incredibly honest and candid look at a family desperate for change, desperate for hope, and truly out of ideas. Most of Alexandra’s narrated sections of the novel are prior to going to Camp Harmony, during which you come to know a mother just barely clinging to a life raft. Alexandra absolutely loves both of her daughters but often appears hopeless and worried. In addition to raising a teenage girl considered “somewhere on the spectrum,” she also struggles to help Iris. Iris is two years younger than Tilly, but feels like the big sister, and is often treated as if she were. There is a difficult balance in families such as this and it’s critical to not only nurture and care for the special needs child, but to remember the needs of the “normal child,” or “NT” as Alexandra says in the novel. So during these flashbacks from Alexandra, the reader comes to understand how they got to Camp Harmony how desperately they needed hope in helping their family.

Thinking back over the novel, the reader does see improvement in not only Tilly but also the other children with special needs. Yes, there are times when they do incredibly inappropriate and horrifying things, but the structure and the rules appeared to be helpful reducing direct outbursts and improvements concerning respect. There are some tense moments between Scott and Josh from the start, but it’s the children that are first exposed to other side of Scott Bean, leading to a suspenseful ride of troubling and sad events.

There are some moments in this novel that made me laugh out loud, although I probably wasn’t supposed to do that, but I just kept being reminded of so many situations with students where you are completely at a loss of how to react to things that they may say or do. “Harmony” was not only an interesting and enjoyable novel but there is a great deal of suspense that will have you on the edge of your seat. Although laced with tragedy, it demonstrates that we can take those unexpected and life-changing circumstances and try to make something positive out of it. This is a thoughtful novel that is a must-read regardless if you are a parent of a special needs child or not. This is about all of us and our hope for our lives to be happy, healthy, and prosperous.

Want to learn more about the author? Visit Carolyn Parkhurst’s web page.

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Book Review: Lies in Rewind

“Lies in Rewind” (Audio Fools Book 2),

by Tali Alexander

Publisher: Tali Alexander Books Inc.; June 24, 2015

lies in rewindSynopsis: New York City attorney Sara Klein has created a perfect world for herself with her beautiful lies. A world in which she is the object of every man’s fantasies and the envy of every woman. Only one man knows the truth about the dark secret Sara is hiding, the only man she’s ever loved and can never have.

But Sara’s world of lies starts to unravel the day sexy British heir William “Liam” Knight storms into her life. He’s seeking revenge and answers for past betrayals, and will use anyone he can to get them. An unlikely friendship between two lonely hearts seeking solace turns into love that will shatter a lifetime of lies, span two continents, and leave Sara facing the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help her God.

LIES IN REWIND is the second book in the Audio Fools series that follows the love lives of two best friends, Emily and Sara. This novel could be enjoyed as a standalone, however, it is highly recommended to first read and meet these characters inside the pages of LOVE IN REWIND (Book one) prior to reading this book, for a more complete experience.

I am so excited that I had the opportunity to read “Lies in Rewind,” by Tali Alexander! I recently read and fell in love with the first book in the Audio Fools series, “Love in Rewind,” and I was just as engrossed in this one as I was the first. This novel focuses on Emily’s best friend Sara, Liam Knight, and Jeffrey Rossi. It picks up where the last one left off (although it can be read as a standalone), when Sara has been evicted from her apartment by her ex-husband, and Emily is desperately seeking her best friend to tell her about what really happened in St. Lucia. Sara is in a dark place, haunted by the secret life between her and Jeffrey. Emily is trying to come to terms with the Liam situation, and Louis is busy trying to keep Liam away from Emily. When Sara sets up a meeting with Liam to try to get him to leave Sara and Louis alone, a uniquely strong bond quickly forms between the two of them. Most of the novel then focuses on Sara opening up to Liam and telling him about who she really is, not who Louis and Emily think she is. The more they talk and share about their pasts, the more they are pulled into one another.

Here’s what I loved about this novel:

  1. We finally get the back story on Sara and Jeffrey, their relationship, and his wife, Jacqueline. Sara rocks but she is not at all as she appeared in Book 1.
  2. The real Liam comes into focus. Again, he’s not at all as he appeared in Book 1, and quite honestly, he’s adorable and funny and romantic.
  3. The Louis/Isa issue is explained further. Louis has become brutally honest and forthcoming with Emily, Sara, Liam, etc. about Isa and what really happened between them.
  4. Of course, I loved seeing more of Louis and Emily. They continue to strengthen their marriage and he is still completely lovable and yummy. And, they are very generous, forgiving, and supportive concerning their friends.

Here’s what I didn’t love about this novel:

  1. Nothing!

Despite everything learned in this novel, I still think Jeffrey is an ass and was happy to see Sara trying to put the pieces of her life together. “Lies in Rewind” is a beautiful example of the freedom that comes with telling the truth, as well as, how committed friends can be to helping one another. Tali Alexander’s writing is once again so realistic that there are several times that you not only empathize with Sara, but it’s as if you can feel the weight she carries in her heart and soul. As the story progresses and things get out into the open, you can also feel that weight start to lift. There are plenty of frustrating moments between Sara and Liam, but ultimately you find yourself on pins and needles waiting to see what will happen between them. Once again, the author scatters a variety of 80’s songs throughout the novel, which makes for an incredibly sweet moment – but I can’t tell you because it would be a spoiler!

If you have not yet read either of the books in this series, they are both must-reads. Tali Alexander goes far above and beyond writing romance novels. Her books are not only gripping and relatable, they transport you into the story and the lives of the characters. When you read this book, you will feel as if the author took all of your likes and dislikes in books, and wrote it just for you.

Learn more about the author by visiting Tali Alexander’s web page!

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

 

Book Blitz & Giveaway: Sweetness

SweetnessBlitzBanner

“Sweetness” (The Sweetest Thing Book 1), by Sierra Hill

Publisher: Ten28 Publishing; July 26, 2016

Synopsis:

I’m the girl from the school of hard knocks.

Nothing has ever come easy for me. So forgive me if I’m a bit reluctant about Kincaid Griffin – born-with-a-silver-spoon in his mouth, conceited college hoops player. A guy who could get any girl he wants, and yet, is suddenly everywhere I am trying to woo me. The more I protest, the more persistent he becomes.

I’m a lucky bastard.

Let’s face it.  As a college athlete, I don’t chase girls – they come to me. I’m as arrogant and cocky as they come, getting nearly everything I want, whenever I want. But there is nothing sweeter than a girl who plays hard to get. And Ainsley Locker is so full of confidence that she knocks me off my feet from the moment I meet her. She’s a challenge. And I like challenges. So I go full-court press to win her over.

But when a stupid mistake turns viral, slam dunking all over my life in a media frenzy, my spot on the team may be in jeopardy, along with my shot at winning the girl.

SWEETNESS TEASER 1 (1)

Learn more about “Sweetness” at Goodreads

Purchase “Sweetness” on Amazon

 Enter to win a Rafflecopter giveaway for:

  • $15 Amazon gift card (INTL)
  • Signed copy of Sweetness (US only)

Sierra_

About Sierra Hill:

Sierra Hill wrote her first full-length romance after a corporate acquisition led her to a stint of unemployment. Since self-publishing her first book in 2014, she’s found her creative passion, writing about the fictional characters that live in her brain, who constantly shout for their own love stories to be told.
Sierra frequently indulges in what some might consider to be an unhealthy dose of reading, dark chocolate goodies, and way too much coffee. She hates cold weather, and frequently finds herself traveling around the country to see her favorite live musicians in concert.Sierra resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband of twenty years and her long-haired, German Shepherd. She is currently working on her next book.

Author Links:

Book Review: The Road Leads Back

“THE ROAD LEADS BACK” (STONEHILL ROMANCE),

BY MARCI BOUDREAUX

PUBLISHED: APRIL 3, 2015

road leads backSynopsis: Kara Martinson and Harry Canton weren’t exactly high school sweethearts, but they did share one night neither will ever forget. Twenty-seven years later, Harry surprises Kara at an art gallery opening and discovers he left her with more than just memories when he went away to college. Desperate to connect with the family he never knew existed, Harry convinces his son to move to Stonehill—and pleads with Kara to come, too.

Kara hasn’t stepped foot in their hometown since the day she was sent away to a home for unwed mothers. Now Harry’s back in her life and as they put together the pieces of his parents’ betrayal, old heartaches start to feel anew. She wants to be near her family, but returning to Iowa means facing some things…and some people…she isn’t quite ready to. Can Harry convince her to forgive those who betrayed her so they can embrace the future they were robbed of so long ago? Or will the pain of the past be too much for Kara to overcome?

This was my first time reading Marci Boudreaux, and I really enjoyed “The Road Leads Back.” There was action in this story from the first page and the story maintained a fast pace the entire time. As soon as Harry and Kara reconnect, their focus is on each other, their family, and dealing with the pain that they have endured. I loved Harry, almost to the point where he seemed too good to be true. His character was very kind, loving, humble, and patient. Unfortunately, you don’t really learn much about Harry except for how he has always felt about Kara, that he was previously married, went to college, and started a business. There were several times that I wished his character was more developed and that we got to see how he felt about things, rather than always trying to accommodate Kara. I was not a big fan of Kara. Granted, her character had been incredibly mistreated, deceived, and disappointed by her and Harry’s parents, but she just wasn’t likable. I felt that it had to be her way or the highway throughout the majority of the novel and as Harry said to her at some point, she was living her whole life as a pity party. Kara’s need and desire to run anytime things get bad was another thing that drove me crazy. It just seemed ridiculous for a married woman in her 40’s with a son and a granddaughter, to continue to just up and skip town during difficult times.

With that being said, I did love this story and the pace of it. I was completely pulled in from the beginning, despite not being able to relate to Kara, and loved that romance, relationships/issues with family, boundaries, forgiveness, and trust were all woven into the plot and storyline. Boudreaux’s writing flows easily and is that “just right” writing where it’s not too simple but not too complicated. “The Road Leads Back” addresses intense and painful circumstances while maintaining hopefulness and peace. It demonstrates how lies and secrets can destroy people, but also what we are capable of when we have no one but ourselves.

*I received a free copy of this book from Juniper Grove Book Solutions in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Maggie Elizabeth Harrington

“MAGGIE ELIZABETH HARRINGTON,”

BY DJ SWYKERT

PUBLISHER: CAMBRIDGE BOOKS; MARCH 19, 2016

MaggieCjpgSynopsis: Maggie Elizabeth Harrington is the story of a young woman in the 1890s, whose world is a remote northern Michigan mining town, where she tries to save a pack of young wolves from a bounty hunter. A terse historical love story of a young woman’s struggle with environmental and moral issues concerning the slaughter of wolves, and the church’s condemnation of her love for a young man are as real in today’s global world as they were for young Maggie more than a century ago.

 

 

“Maggie Elizabeth Harrington” is an incredible novel about a 13-year-old girl growing up in a mining town in the 1890’s and about her relationships with family, friends, a young man, and a pack of wolves. DJ Swykert has created such a uniquely beautiful, yet heartbreaking story about Maggie that awakens a variety of emotions within you as you are reading. Maggie’s mother died during her birth and she has grown up living with her father and her grandmother. Maggie’s father is a miner and a hard worker but has never been affectionate, or even talkative with Maggie. Maggie’s grandmother is somewhat softer, but also quiet and reserved like Maggie’s father. Maggie is best friends with Annie loves Annie’s older brother, Tommie, both of  whom come from an upper-class family in town. When some locals decide to hunt and kill a wolf in the area for bounty, Maggie enlists Tommie and Annie’s help in locating her pups and protecting them. This is when Maggie’s “other-world” begins, where she splits her time between family and chores with sneaking out to feed and care for the wolf pups. As they care for the pups, Tommie and Maggie become closer, and venture into the experiences of first love, despite his families objections. Maggie has a secret boyfriend and a secret wolf pack, but eventually the wolves are discovered, so Tommie and Maggie run away with the wolves to protect them until they can be set free.

Something I love about Maggie is her inquisitiveness. Her inner monologue doesn’t just accept things as she should, whether it is actions or words from her father, the minister, or others in the community. Rather than accept things at face value, Maggie is very introspective and considers the reasons and meanings behind what others say and do. Her character is also very honest and believable from the point of view of a 13-year-old girl. When thinking about various people, she will consider things they have said or done and then decide to herself, “I do not think that I like him very much,” and then move on with her thoughts.  Swykert’s characters are almost all very developed and complex, contributing to who Maggie is and the choices that she makes. During the novel, Maggie’s bravery, love for the wolf pups, and love for Tommie all change who she is and who she wants to be in her life. This was an outstanding coming of age story about a girl who sets her mind to protect something that she loves, and commits to it the best she can. Although I was in tears towards the end of the novel, I still loved it and cannot wait for this story to continue.

Learn more about DJ Swykert by visiting his web page.

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Piece by Piece

“PIECE BY PIECE: STEEL’S RESCUE,” (BROKEN PIECES SERIES, BOOK 3),

BY KELLY MOORE

PUBLISHED: AUGUST 2, 2016 (E-BOOK)

CREATESPACE INDEPENDENT PUBLISHING PLATFORM; 1 EDITION; JULY 16, 2016 (PAPERBACK )

piecebypieceSynopsis: After losing his leg when his plane crashed during the war, Steel closed himself off from everyone. He secluded himself in his fortress and was happy being a loner until his captain from the Air Force hires him for a rescue mission of a girl Steel once loved. He left her behind for his love of planes and now she is in trouble. Will Steel risk his way of life to help her and expose his greatest fear? Adyson was once a sweet innocent girl in love with a man who chose a different way of life. Heartbroken, she seeks out someone that is nothing like Steel. She marries a man that becomes her worst nightmare. Now being hunted in the jungles of Guatemala by drug lords, she needs a way out. She is stunned when Steel shows up as her rescuer. Their old heat reignites for one another. His insecurities hold him back, but he craves her like no one else. Her secrets may very well kill them both. The question becomes who rescues whom?

 

Kelly Moore has wowed me once again with her latest in the Broken Pieces Series, “Piece by Piece.” This novel takes place when Steel and Syn (Kyren and Brogan’s sons), and Grace (Zack and Cady’s daughter) are all grown-up and have all joined the military. Steel lost one of his legs when his plane went down while he was in the Air Force, and he now lives a secluded life and has detached from his family. His life apart from others is interrupted when Captain Maynard shows up to tell him that his first love, Adyson (Ady) needs to be rescued from Guatemala. Steel’s backup for the mission is Syn and Gray, bringing him back to his brother and cousin, and making him realize how much he has turned away from the family that loves him. Of course, nothing goes as planned after finding Ady, especially once they realize that they still have feelings for one another.

What I loved about “Piece by Piece” is that it doesn’t fit into a specific genre. This novel encompasses romance, family, military fiction, crime, and suspense, creating a page-turner that you won’t be able to put down. I fell in love with the characters in the first two books in the series, and also fell in love with Steel, Syn, and Gray now that they are adults. Despite Steel’s distance since his accident, you could immediately feel the bond and spark between the three of them as soon as they are reunited. If you haven’t read the first two novels, Moore provides plenty of flashbacks to give you an idea of their wonderful upbringing in Maine with their parents and reminds the reader of the incredible love between Kyren and Brogan, as well as, between Zack and Cady. Once Steel and Ady are reunited, there is a constant back and forth of anger and resistance, mixed with passion and lingering feelings for their first love. Although Steel tries to fight his feelings, you find yourself cheering for this couple to have their happily ever after.  Moore’s writing is once again so realistic and descriptive that you feel as if you are a part of this story and hate to see it come to an end. I continue to gain respect and admiration for Kelly Moore and her style of fiction. I anxiously await the next installment in the Broken Pieces Series and look forward to much more from this fantastic author.

Learn more about the author by visiting Kelly Moore’s web page.

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

What am I reading?

Here’s the next batch of fantastic novels that I plan on reading this week!

“Piece by Piece: Steel’s Rescue,” (Broken Pieces Series, Book 3), by Kelly Moore

Published: August 2, 2016 (e-book)

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition; July 16, 2016 (paperback )

piecebypieceSynopsis: After losing his leg when his plane crashed during the war, Steel closed himself off from everyone. He secluded himself in his fortress and was happy being a loner until his captain from the Air Force hires him for a rescue mission of a girl Steel once loved. He left her behind for his love of planes and now she is in trouble. Will Steel risk his way of life to help her and expose his greatest fear? Adyson was once a sweet innocent girl in love with a man who chose a different way of life. Heartbroken, she seeks out someone that is nothing like Steel. She marries a man that becomes her worst nightmare. Now being hunted in the jungles of Guatemala by drug lords, she needs a way out. She is stunned when Steel shows up as her rescuer. Their old heat reignites for one another. His insecurities hold him back, but he craves her like no one else. Her secrets may very well kill them both. The question becomes who rescues whom?

“The Road Leads Back,” (Stonehill Romance),

by Marci Boudreaux

Published: April 3, 2015

road leads backSynopsis: Kara Martinson and Harry Canton weren’t exactly high school sweethearts, but they did share one night neither will ever forget. Twenty-seven years later, Harry surprises Kara at an art gallery opening and discovers he left her with more than just memories when he went away to college. Desperate to connect with the family he never knew existed, Harry convinces his son to move to Stonehill—and pleads with Kara to come, too.

Kara hasn’t stepped foot in their hometown since the day she was sent away to a home for unwed mothers. Now Harry’s back in her life and as they put together the pieces of his parents’ betrayal, old heartaches start to feel anew. She wants to be near her family, but returning to Iowa means facing some things…and some people…she isn’t quite ready to.

Can Harry convince her to forgive those who betrayed her so they can embrace the future they were robbed of so long ago? Or will the pain of the past be too much for Kara to overcome?

“Maggie Elizabeth Harrington,” by DJ Swykert

Publisher: Cambridge Books; March 19, 2016

MaggieCjpgSynopsis: Maggie Elizabeth Harrington is the story of a young woman in the 1890s, whose world is a remote northern Michigan mining town, where she tries to save a pack of young wolves from a bounty hunter. A terse historical love story of a young woman’s struggle with environmental and moral issues concerning the slaughter of wolves, and the church’s condemnation of her love for a young man are as real in today’s global world as they were for young Maggie more than a century ago.

 

 

 

“Hottest Mess,” (Stark International), by J. Kenner

Publisher: Bantam Books; July 12, 2016

hottestSynopsis: Dallas Sykes has a reputation. He is known for his parties, his money, and the countless women on his arm. Yet the Dallas I know is a different man—darker, smarter, and unbearably sexy. Just one look from him can leave me breathless; the anticipation of his touch can make me lose control.

Inextricably bound by our past, we keep each other’s secrets. And while there are people who have the power to hurt us, it’s the truth that threatens us most of all.

Dallas can be mine only behind closed doors, our passion as searing as it is forbidden. Yet nothing in this world has ever felt so desperately, deliciously right

“Harmony,” by Carolyn Parkhurst

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books; August 2, 2016

harmonySynopsis: How far will a mother go to save her family? The Hammond family is living in DC, where everything seems to be going just fine, until it becomes clear that the oldest daughter, Tilly, is developing abnormally–a mix of off-the-charts genius and social incompetence. Once Tilly–whose condition is deemed undiagnosable–is kicked out of the last school in the area, her mother Alexandra is out of ideas. The family turns to Camp Harmony and the wisdom of child behavior guru Scott Bean for a solution. But what they discover in the woods of New Hampshire will push them to the very limit. Told from the alternating perspectives of both Alexandra and her younger daughter Iris (the book’s Nick Carraway), this is a unputdownable story about the strength of love, the bonds of family, and how you survive the unthinkable.

 

Book Review: Valley of the Moon

“Valley of the Moon,” by Melanie Gideon

Publisher: Ballantine Books; July 26, 2016

valleySynopsis: Lux is a single mom struggling to make her way when she discovers an idyllic community in the Sonoma Valley. It seems like a place from another time—until she realizes it actually is. Lux must keep one foot in her world, raising her son as well as she can with the odds stacked against her, but every day she is more strongly drawn in by the sweet simplicity of life in Greengage, and by the irresistible connection she feels with a man born decades before her. Soon she finds herself torn between her ties to the modern world—her adored son—and the first place she has ever felt truly at home.

 

 

“Valley of the Moon” is the story of a woman named Lux who is a single mom in San Francisco in 1975. She is mostly estranged from her father but maintains a relationship with her mother. Her five-year-old son, Benno, is heading to visit Lux’s parents back east, so Lux decides to go camping at Valley of the Moon. Late one night she gets out of her tent to use the bathroom and sees a thick fog, walks through the fog, and finds herself in another place and time.

Joseph grew up in London and adored his mother who treated everyone as equals and believed that Joseph should try everything in order to find out what tasks and hobbies he likes, as well as, those he doesn’t. Later in life he heads to California,  purchases a farm to create his own society of people living and working together, and establishes Greengage. In 1906 there is a horrible earthquake, but nothing is damaged at Greengage and no one is injured. However, a thick ring of fog surrounds Greengage and they quickly learn that if they try to go through the fog, they immediately die.

Thus begins a back-and-forth relationship with Lux being able to visit Greengage when it is a full moon and the fog appears. She can come and go, but the people at Greengage cannot leave. She establishes a close friendship with Joseph, at first struggling to believe one another that it is 1975 to her, and 1906 to Joseph. She works with them while visiting Greengage, trying different jobs and making her contributions,continuing to go back and forth between Joseph’s time and her time for several years. However, there are occasions where she misses her window to return, or time has sped up too much out in “the real world,” causing heart-breaking consequences.

I truly appreciated and enjoyed the uniqueness of “Valley of the Moon.” This novel is so much more than just science fiction or fantasy. Melanie Gideon has captured time-travel, romance, self-discovery, forgiveness, family relationships, and heartache – all in one novel. From the beginning, we learn bits and pieces about Lux’s life and the strain of her relationship with her father. We learn about her challenges as a single mom of a bi-racial son in the 70’s, but also her love and admiration for Benno. Lux manages to expand her career from waitressing to banking over time, but her heart is always at peace while visiting and working at Greengage, and especially spending time with Joseph. I was surprised by the ending, although I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it did leave me with questions. Sometimes throughout the novel, I also got aggravated with all of the comparisons and changes about Lux’s real-time and Joseph’s time at Greengage, but otherwise, I thought it was a beautifully written story. “Valley of the Moon” asserts that love can last across time and space, regardless of how far. Furthermore, it demonstrates that a happy and content life doesn’t always look a certain way, and can triumph despite heart-breaking events in our lives.

Learn more about Melanie Gideon by visiting her web page.

*Disclaimer: I received and ARC of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Last Sweet Surrender

“Last Sweet Surrender,” by Holly Cortelyou

Westcott Springs, Book 2

Publisher: Liquid Silver Books; July 25, 2016

lastsweetsurrender

“Last Sweet Surrender” is an upcoming novel by Holly Cortelyou and the second in the Wescott Springs series, and is just as good, if not better, than the first in the series. This novel focuses on Lena and Jax, and Lena’s daughter Katelyn. We met Lena briefly in “Last Resort Love,” and learned that she is Brett’s half-sister. Somewhat of a gypsy, Lena and Katelyn have lived all over the world, but she’s considering settling down so they can be near her brother Brett and his family. Jax is a world-famous skier and Brett’s best friend who is in town for Nick and Krissa’s wedding, and hoping that the paparazzi doesn’t find him. Jax and Lena meet after a bunch of kids throw a snowball at her, and after that, it seems that everywhere she goes, Jax seems to pop up. Although instantly attracted to each other, Jax and Lena bicker constantly and seem to bring out the anger in each other. Lena’s young daughter instantly loves Jax, and slowly Jax and Lena start to realize they have feelings for each other. The problem, however, is Lena is struggling to move past her upbringing and first marriage and is afraid to love anyone again.

Once again, I have fallen in love with Holly Cortelyou’s writing and characters. The second Jax and Lena meet in this novel, you instantly feel the tension (both good and bad) between them and are pulled into their story. I loved Jax instantly! His character starts out somewhat gruff and stand-offish, but quickly reveals his incredibly sweet and sensitive side, especially with children. Lena took longer to grow on me because there were so many times I felt she was overreacting or just being rude, but then she would suddenly be kind and lovable. As the novel progressed and I learned more about their lives, I was completely engrossed in their story and crossing my fingers for a happy ending for this couple!

Something that I love about Cortelyou’s stories and characters is that nothing seems too far-fetched. Lena is a real person, works part-time, and has been raising her daughter on her own. When Lena and Jax are watching all 5 or 6 of the kids for a few days, things get real. One throws up on the carpet, Jax and Lena distribute chores to the kids to pick up toys after themselves, they have family dinners at the table, and so on. These are believable characters that you can relate to, and scenarios that we have all experienced. The characters laugh, cry, argue, and love – just like real friends and family.

For the second time, I have set down to read one of Cortelyou’s books and was unable to get up until I had finished it. As soon as I read the first page, I was completely lost in this novel. I cannot think of one negative thing to say about “Last Sweet Surrender” except that eventually it ends, making you wish there was already another installment in this series to dive into next. Let’s hope there will be more from this fantastic author very soon!

Visit Holly Coretelyou’s web page to learn more about her and her books!

*Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: “To Have and to Hold”

“To Have and to Hold,” by Lauren Layne

Publisher: Pocket Books; July 26, 2016

to haveSynopsis: Discovering her fiancé is an international con man just moments before they exchange vows devastates celebrity wedding planner Brooke Baldwin’s business—and breaks her heart. Now a pariah in Los Angeles, she seeks a fresh start in New York City and thinks she’s found it with her first bridal client, a sweet—if slightly spoiled—hotel heiress. Then she meets the uptight businessman who’s holding the purse strings.

Seth Tyler wishes he could write a blank check and be done with his sister Maya’s fancy-pants wedding. Unfortunately, micromanaging the event is his only chance at proving Maya’s fiancé is a liar. Standing directly in his way is the stunning blonde wedding planner whose practiced smiles and sassy comebacks both irritate and arouse him. He needs Brooke’s help. But can he persuade a wedding planner on a comeback mission to unplan a wedding? And more importantly, how will he convince her that the wedding she should be planning…is theirs?

 

Five days from now, you must get this book! I just read “To Have and to Hold” today and was blown away! This really was a fantastic read that I couldn’t put down once starting. First, I loved all of the main characters – Seth, Brooke, Maya, and Grant – as well as, some of Brooke’s new colleagues at Wedding Belles and Seth’s assistant, Etta. The author created incredibly believable, but uniquely interesting characters in this novel, and you will quickly fall in love with them all. At times I am confused as to why there is so much tension between Seth and Brooke, especially because I wanted them together immediately, but the tension just adds to the suspense of what will happen with them. Seth’s character is incredibly sexy  even when he’s not as polite as he could be. Brooke is strong and smart but is also doubtful about love because of being deceived by her previous love.

Layne’s writing is perfectly descriptive creating visuals in your mind of the intense looks and moments between Seth and Brooke throughout the novel, making you completely believe how in love they are with one another, despite wanting to admit it. My only complaint about this novel is that it ended. I really wanted more from Seth and Brooke and was hoping that their story would continue, but I looked at the next in The Wedding Belles series and saw that the focus is Heather. Heather is great, but I can’t help but wonder about Seth and Brooke’s future! This is a light-hearted, quick read but is still packed with love and emotion. Put “To Have and to Hold” on your to-be-read list and grab a copy on release day!

Learn more about Lauren Layne by visiting her web page.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.