Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof

SMALL
Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (310 pgs)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Tom Putnam has resigned himself to a quiet and half-fulfilled life. An English professor in a sleepy college town, he spends his days browsing the Shakespeare shelves at the campus bookstore, managing the oddball faculty in his department and caring, alongside his formidable mother-in-law, for his wife Marjory, a fragile shut-in with unrelenting neuroses, a condition exacerbated by her discovery of Tom’s brief and misguided affair with a visiting poetess a decade earlier.

Then, one evening at the bookstore, Tom and Marjory meet Rose Callahan, the shop’s charming new hire, and Marjory invites Rose to their home for dinner, out of the blue, her first social interaction since her breakdown. Tom wonders if it’s a sign that change is on the horizon, a feeling confirmed upon his return home, where he opens a letter from his former paramour, informing him he’d fathered a son who is heading Tom’s way on a train. His mind races at the possibility of having a family after so many years of loneliness. And it becomes clear change is coming whether Tom’s ready or not.

It’s always a plus when you’re reading a book and the story puts a smile on your face. That’s exactly what happened while I made my way through Small Blessings. Its plot sometimes had things conveniently falling into place for the characters but if you overlook that, it’s a fun read filled with feelings all of us deal with at one time or another.

What I enjoyed most about this book was its setting. A small college town inhabited by what appeared to be a cast of quirky characters. I had mixed feelings about the main character Tom. You almost have to forgive him for his past sin that has produced a surprise son because in the opening pages he seems to be a sweet guy who is caring for this very fragile woman, Marjory. I won’t give the plot away but I hoped we’d see more of her in the story.

Rose, the other lead character, is also flawed but it seems that Marjory has seen something within her that others haven’t and that’s the reason I hoped Marjory would be in the story more so I could see how their relationship progressed and if, as Tom suspected, it was a turning point for his wife.

Small Blessings has its humor too. Its pacing is not too fast and not too slow and the sort of story that’s perfect for settling down to an hour of reading here and there.

If you like stories with small town settings, lots of characters, and one that leaves you with a positive feeling that there’s a reason certain things happen to us, then you’ll probably enjoy this one.

The Retail by Joshua Danker-Dake

RETAIL
The Retail by Joshua Danker-Dake
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Contemporary, Humor
Length: Full Length (310 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Aspiring writer Penn Reynard has just joined the ranks of America’s fifteen million retail workers: fresh out of college with an English degree, he can’t find a job anywhere except at the local big-box hardware store. Working returns, Penn experiences firsthand the often comical absurdity, chaos, and shenanigans of the retail world. At least he has a new romance with a coworker going for him—if he doesn’t screw it up. The constant pressures of dealing with hostile customers, oblivious coworkers, and overbearing management begin to take their toll on him, though, and as his desired career path threatens to fall out of reach, Penn struggles to break free of retail’s clutches.

Few things are more disheartening than being stuck in a soul-shredding job.

The amount of time that was put into developing Penn’s personality made him one of the most memorable characters I’ve met so far this year. Penn’s flaws happen to be things that deeply irritate me, so I can’t honestly say that I always liked him. I can say that he made me think, though, and that he was written in such a way that I paused about a third of the way through his tale to see if it was actually a memoir. Penn comes across as a three-dimensional person, metaphorical warts and all. That isn’t something that’s at all easy to accomplish, and it’s whetted my appetite for more from Mr. Danker-Dake .

This book includes well over two dozen different characters, many of whom have nicknames that weren’t always easy to connect to their actual names. At times I mixed up the identities of certain employees and customers that made less frequent appearances because there was such a large number of them drifting in and out of the plot. It would have been really helpful to have a brief list of their names as well an indication of whether each character was an employee of the store or one of their regular customers.

Worldbuilding is definitely one of Mr. Danker-Dake’s strengths. Not only does he create incredibly complex settings for his characters, he allows Penn to slowly change in response to the things that happen to him. In some ways the setting almost functioned as its own character due to how much influence it had on Penn’s personal development. Watching this unfold was a treat, and it made me curious about what this author will come up with in the future.

I’d especially recommend The Retail to anyone who has ever worked in the service industry or who wonders what it’s like to be on the opposite side of the booth, till, or help desk.

The Hanging Tree by Michael Phillip Cash

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The Hanging Tree by Michael Phillip Cash
Publisher: Red Feather Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (75 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Thistledown

Enter a world where spirits roam the earth in Michael Phillip Cash’s haunting new novella, The Hanging Tree. Set amid the eerie backdrop of Long Island, an area famously steeped in old legend, two young would-be lovers contemplate their future while visits from those who have come before them reveal the lure of fate…and the power of free will. At seventeen years old, Arielle’s relationship with her parents is slowly deteriorating. Angry and defiant, she is at a loss on how to cope with the tumultuous situation in which she finds herself. Arielle’s only comfort is Chad, an eighteen-year-old young man who seems to truly understand her struggles. Arielle and Chad meet beneath the low-hanging branches of what the local community has nick-named the “Hanging Tree”. An ancient and majestic landmark, it has long been rumored that the tree is haunted by ghosts. These ghosts span various centuries and vary wildly in age, but each one of them has one thing in common: their deaths are all somehow connected to the tree itself. As Arielle and Chad commiserate over their current situation and their precarious nature of their future, the spectral inhabitants of the Hanging Tree witness their conversation. One by one,the ghosts begin reminiscing about their own lives-and deaths- as they examine the inner demons with which their human forms long struggled. An eerie meditation on the oft-overlooked power of choice, Cash’s The Hanging Tree will stay with readers long after they turn out the light.

What happens when you test your boundaries under the infamous Hanging Tree?

Seventeen year old Arielle is rebelling against her father’s will. She is dating a boy her father doesn’t approve of. She decides, against his wishes, to go with the boy on a date under the infamous Hanging Tree. When things start to happen, will she make the right choice and get away or will her fate be tied to the tree?

Five spirits are tied to the tree. All of which have a historical connection to the spot because of their deaths. The characters are a witch and her granddaughter, a cat, two young male lovers and a woman called the Gibson girl who died after being brutally raped. Each story is brought to life by the author and we as readers get a glimpse into the past of Goody the witch and her granddaughter Claire and the horrors that led to their demise as Goody was put to death for witchery after her granddaughter commits suicide. As she died, Goody cursed her murderer and his family.

The two young lovers’ tale is equally tragic and we glimpse a time when it was nearly a death sentence to admit that you were gay and in love. The only ghost that really is never talked much about is the Gibson girl and the horrible rape that led to her death.

Arielle sits against the tree fending off the amorous boy whose attention she craved. Should she give in and allow him access to the body he wants or keep herself pure for someone worth having? Each of the ghosts in the tree interacts with her and the boyfriend, driving him away with spooky sounds and moving tree limbs.  When the ghost cat finds itself in a perilous situation, will Arielle make the right choice for her and for the cat? Some decisions we make linger long after the grave. Can Arielle save herself before she becomes another victim of the tree?

I really enjoyed this book and read it in one sitting. Page after page I had to know what happened to Goody and her granddaughter Claire. The two young lovers were also tragic and I loved their story just as much. Arielle is a girl like so many teenagers. Angry and trying to find her way, she considers giving away her body, one of the only things she has control of. As the night develops she learns to listen to the wind and hear the whispers between the branches.

Great story and I look forward to more spooky tales from Michael Phillip Cash.

Almost Perfect by Diane Daniels Manning

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Almost Perfect by Diane Daniels Manning
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (322 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

An old woman who has given up hope and a boy who believes the impossible wonder if life would be perfect at the Westminster Dog Show.

Seventy-year old Bess Rutledge has dreamed of winning the Westminster Dog Show all her life. Despite her decades-long career as one of America’s top Standard Poodle breeders, she has decided she’s too old to hold on to her foolish dream. She sells off all the dogs in her once famous kennel except for the aging champion McCreery and his mischievous, handsome son Breaker. Part of her senses they might have been the ones to take her to Westminster, if only she’d dared to try.

Bess meets Benny, a teenager with mild autism who attends a therapeutic special school, and learns he has a dream of his own: to impress his self-absorbed mother. Benny is drawn into the world of dog shows and becomes convinced he has found the perfect way to win his mother’s attention. If he can win Westminster with either McCreery or Breaker, he just knows she will finally be proud of him. Getting Bess to go along with his plan, however, is not going to be so easy. . .

The title of this book sums up how I felt after reading it, that is was ‘almost perfect’.

It’s an enjoyable read with a theme I think we can all relate to about striving for perfection to please others and not yourself, and realizing that it might be too late to live your dream.

I loved how all the characters interacted and were eventually changed by one another. There’s Bess and Benny each wanting something and then realizing it’s basically the same thing and finally coming together to make it a reality.

The author did a great job showing us how Bess was once like Benny’s mother. Benny wants nothing more than his mother’s attention and approval and Bess’ son David wanted the same thing but her dog breeding business came first. Can she right a wrong using Benny and will her and David’s relationship ever be healed?

Benny did at times have dialogue that seemed a bit beyond his years and was the only weakness in this story. All characters were well rounded and the setting so clearly described that I felt myself emerged in this small town setting.

And who doesn’t love a book with animals? For this one it’s poodles and a lovable dog name McCreery who I felt myself cheering for when Bess and Benny decide to let him compete at the Westminister Dog Show. I won’t give away what happens but the book has a great ending that puts a smile on your face.

One final thing I like about this book is the author is donating 100% of the profits from its sale to various charities serving children and animals so what better way to help them out and get an enjoyable read in the process.

A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon

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A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (516 pgs)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Letters from the only man she’s ever loved.

A keepsake of the father she never knew.

Or just a beautiful glass vase that catches the light, even on a grey day.

If you had the chance to make a fresh start, what would you keep from your old life? What would you give away?

Gina Bellamy is starting again, after a difficult few years she’d rather forget. But the belongings she’s treasured for so long just don’t seem to fit who she is now.

So Gina makes a resolution. She’ll keep just a hundred special items – the rest can go.

But that means coming to terms with her past and learning to embrace the future, whatever it might bring . . .

A Hundred Pieces of Me is a book that you hope won’t ever come to an end because it’s a delight to read. However, when you do reach the final word you begin reflecting back on what you’ve just read.

It’s not only a wonderful story, but it forces you to reflect on your own life and what choices you’d make if you could only keep one hundred items.

Ms. Dillon pulls you into the story immediately and you connect with Gina as she begins her journey to rebuild her life. The author also does a wonderful job playing on all your emotions. I think there’s a little bit of Gina in all of us, and that’s what makes you read on.

The dialogue is very natural sounding and despite the book’s 500 plus pages, time flies by as you read more. In fact, you want to read just a little more at each setting to see what Gina selects as her hundred pieces and what background and story is connected with it.

What I also liked about this book was the backstory unfolded slowly and intermingled with each chapter about the hundred pieces. I felt it gave more insight into Gina’s character and why she was choosing a particular item.

One of the endorsements on the back of the book mentioned that it’s a book that you want to read one more chapter before you turn in for the night and that’s exactly what happened to me.  This is the first book I’ve read by Lucy Dillion, but it definitely won’t be the last.

With summer reading season ahead, I’d highly recommend you add this book to your list.

The Lost Flower by Geraldine Solon

Cover_The Lost Flower

The Lost Flower by Geraldine Solon
Publisher: Self
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Mystery
Length: Full (273 pgs)
Heat: Spicy
Rated: 3 stars
Review by Rose

After third grade teacher, Lacy Stone undergoes a kidney transplant she develops vivid dreams of a toddler running away from a blazing fire. Lacy soon embarks in a journey to Boracay island, Philippines to find answers. On the island, Lacy meets Sampaguita Navarro, one of the last few Aetas of her tribe. As a manghihilot, Sam hopes to open her own holistic spa on the island, but as she acquires tragic visions, she discovers that her gift of touch comes with a price. Searching for clues, Lacy crosses paths and falls in love with investor, Adam Shaw not realizing that he’s the prime target of waitress, Frankie Lloyd who has acquired a new identity to seek revenge and claim her redemption. When Lacy and Sam provide a threat to Frankie’s plans, trouble looms paradise which leaves Lacy with a choice between saving the man she loves or the child from her dream.

This book has an interesting premise– after a kidney transplant, Lacy Stone begins having vivid dreams of a toddler in need of rescue. Because of clues in the dream she realizes it takes place on the island of Boracay in the Philippines and has a strong sense that she needs to go there.

Once there, she is introduced to other people on the island who, at first, seem to have little in common but it is soon evident that there is a thread that ties them all together–a thread we do not see clearly until the end of the book.

This book could have done with a bit of editing–it was not an ARC but there were several points where the editor fell down on his/her job (punctuation, duplication of a passage, etc., actions which seem inconsistent with transplant patients).  It was hard to connect with the majority of the characters– I think if the book had been longer the author would have been able to deepen the characters. As it is, we see a lot of what they do, but we don’t actually come to feel what they feel.

However, the story itself is compelling that this reviewer was able to get back into the story even with these issues. The mysteries as to why Frankie was hiding on the island, who the child was and what she had to do with Lacy, the connection between Sam and all the other characters is well done. I could see this as a movie–it had the feel of watching various scenes play out.

I would be interested in trying other books by this author.

The Lonely Impulse by Jim Cort

LONELY
The Lonely Impulse by Jim Cort
Publisher: Deaf Dog Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (116 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Years ago Danny Carmody and Willie Dowd,two childhood friends from the slums of Belfast, served in the Provisional wing of the Irish Republican Army. Dowd, slight and studious, gave himself without reservation to the cause and rose through the ranks by his dedication, intelligence, and talent for making bombs. Carmody, a big lad and far from intellectual, joined the Provos not from any political conviction, but out of loyalty to Dowd, following a pattern he had held to all his life.

Together they had planted bombs, staged ambushes and robbed banks in the name of the cause, each risking his life to save the other. But when Dowd forced Danny into a shameful act, Danny felt he had been betrayed. He quit the Provos and fled to America, nursing a bitter hatred of Dowd for what he saw as the wasting of his life. Burned out and plagued by guilt for the destruction and deaths he had caused, Danny drifts along the Eastern seaboard, winding up an unofficial bouncer in a black bar in Newark, New Jersey. He has changed his name to Milo Costigan.

In the meantime, Dowd pursued his IRA career, wounded by his friend’s desertion, but never once questioning the cause or his place in it. When a cease-fire begins, Dowd finds himself a man without a function. His uncompromising dedication and fanatic hatred of the British are no longer wanted. At the urging of a friend, he comes to America. His friend Terry has discovered some shady dealings at the plant where he works. Terry has a plan for hijacking evidence of the plant’s criminal activities, and demanding a million dollars ransom.

The plan goes through and they send a ransom demand to the head of the conglomerate that owns the plant, a ruthless and calculating billionaire named Jason Ackerdyne. Ackerdyne wants the situation dealt with and Dowd eliminated without involving the police. He gives the problem to his chief of security Julia Malcom. Malcom, a devious and fiercely ambitious woman, finds Milo Costigan, (the former Danny Carmody), and uses Costigan’s hatred of Dowd to manipulate him into taking the job, without, however, telling him the whole story.

The Lonely Impulse is a novel of a little under 70,000 words that tells what happens as Dowd tries to get his ransom, and Milo Costigan tries to hunt him down.

They say you can never go home again. If this is true, why does your past always seem to be dogging your heels? Milo Costigan is no doubt asking himself that very question the day Julia Malcom hunts him down in a seedy bar. With the mention of a name he’d long stopped thinking about, it all comes back in a violent rush and pours over into his future. What’s a guy to do but put it back where it belongs?

Milo Costigan is a confounding character. He’s not a nice guy. Not by any means. As an ex-IRA member, he’s no stranger to doing bad things. Yet, on the other hand, you develop a sympathy for him despite the fact he seems almost irredeemable. I found that to be both refreshing and a bit perplexing.

Willie Dowd is a ghost from Milo’s past, one he’d just as soon forget. Willie is even less redeemable than Costigan, if that’s possible. You get the feeling that he never gave up his past and has simply been hiding out, biding his time since his days in Ireland.

There were things I didn’t care for about The Lonely Impulse. At times there seemed to be almost too much going on for me to keep up with and just enough characters to confuse me. On the other hand, there was a lot that I did enjoy. As I mentioned, I really liked (as well as hated) the main character, Costigan. I also appreciated the flashbacks to his days in Ireland as a member of the IRA. It’s a portion of history that I don’t know much about but have always been interested in.

In spite of a few things that left me feeling confused and lost at times, The Lonely Impulse is a fast paced, exciting novel that will give you insight into the history of Ireland’s turbulent times. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys a thrilling adventure coupled with an Irish brogue.

Molly Harper by Emelle Gamble

0Cover_Molly Haper
Molly Harper by Emelle Gamble
Publisher: Posh Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (293 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Rose

Movie star Molly Harper has it all, beauty, success in her field, and a loving family and marriage to actor Ben Delmonico.Norma Wintz, Molly’s mother, has it all, a lovely life style and two children who adore her, and a respite from the battle against cancer she’s been fighting. Anne Sullivan, at age fifty, is optimistic that her move to sunny Santa Barbara, California, will allow her to be closer to her youngest son and his family, and help her start her life anew after the death of her beloved husband.

But all three of these women, despite their considerable blessings, are plunged into turmoil when the most intimate of secrets that ties their lives together is revealed. At this same time, Molly Harper is confronted with the news that her marriage to actor Ben Delmonico is over. As she navigates this heartbreak and tries to keep the personal details of the drama off the front pages of the newspapers, Molly must also find a way to once and forever negotiate a way forward with her ex- lover and best friend, the volatile and compelling Cruz Morales.

How each of these characters handles the resulting upheaval in their own life, and in their relationships with one another, forms the compelling story of family, secrets and trust in the romantic women’s fiction novel, Molly Harper.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but it won’t be my last! Ms. Gamble does a wonderful job of drawing these characters and making them just leap off the page.

The story starts with Anne waiting in a restaurant to meet with the woman who adopted the child Anne gave up at birth–Anne has discovered some information that she feels the adoptive family needs to know. And, that would have been the end of that except for the fact that Norma passes out and Anne’s training as a nurse brings her into the very home of her biological daughter.

Molly is going through crises of her own–her marriage is breaking up, her best friend seems to be on a self-destruct path, and her mom is very ill.

Ms. Gamble puts us slap-dab in the middle of this and magic happens. I found myself caring for the characters and wanting the best for them. At times I found myself smiling over a bit of very well-done “product placement”—the books/movies talked about are Ms. Gamble’s own. Clever bits, those!!

The one character I had trouble liking 100% was Cruz Morales. And, I’m not sure how much of it was the way the character was drawn or because I kept picturing Cruz Castillo from the old soap opera Santa Barbara and having issues reconciling this character’s behavior with that character. I had trouble seeing what Molly saw in him. Perhaps if I had read the novella that was a prequel to this, I would have understood that better. By the end of the book, however, he had grown on me and I was rooting for him and Molly.

I will definitely be searching out the rest of Ms. Gamble’s works.

Mind of a Stranger by Ruth J. Hartman

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Mind of a Stranger by Ruth J. Hartman
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (129 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

How do you escape a stranger when the stranger is you?

Shelby Wright has the life she’s always wanted: a loving marriage to Charlie, her best friend, companion, and lover. She can’t imagine anything ever coming between them. They’re so close, nothing ever could.
But when Shelby’s mind begins to play tricks on her, little annoyances grow. She’s plagued with doubts when she can’t remember whether she’s done something. A voice in her head plants an unease that she can’t ignore. Then at her job, everyday occurrences that never bothered her before seem larger than life. Suddenly, life is more than she can handle. What’s happening to her?

When her thoughts take a dangerous turn, she’s scared out of her wits. And she can’t tell Charlie because the woman he promised to love, honor, and cherish has been overtaken by a monster Shelby can’t control.

It’s hard to treat a disease when you can’t even admit you have it.

Charlie is such an affectionate and attentive spouse. The best scenes involve him trying to help his wife in any way he can long before either of them know what is happening to Shelby. The text says they’ve only been married a year, but Charlie and Shelby have such a strong emotional bond that it felt to me like they’ve been together for decades. This isn’t a romance novel by any stretch of the imagination, but his devotion to her brought a much-needed sweetness to Shelby’s tale.

It came as a surprise to me, then, that Charlie takes so long to realize something odd is going on with his wife. Most of the couples I know who are as close and loving as these two would have a difficult time keeping such a big secret from one another. I briefly theorized that he was in denial, as this is a common reaction for friends and family members of people living with mental illness. This is a minor criticism of an otherwise engrossing tale, but I would have appreciated it if a reason was given for why Charlie overlooked so many of the signs that show up early on in the tale. It would have been helpful to know if my theory about why he acted that way was correct.

This short story is an illuminating look at what it’s like to live in a mind that feels like it’s spinning out of control. There are times when it’s extremely difficult to understand why someone living with diseases like the one mentioned in this book say and do certain things . As someone who has a loved one with a similar disorder it was extremely interesting to see what it feels like to experience the more severe symptoms from the perspective of the patient.

Mind of a Stranger is an unforgettable and compassionate snapshot of living with mental illness. I would especially recommend it to friends and family members of people who have been diagnosed with any type of anxiety disorder. This is a must-read!

Latecomers Fan Club by Diane V. Mulligan

Cover_latecomers fan club

Latecomers Fan Club by Diane V. Mulligan
Publisher: Self Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Womens Fiction
Length: Full (152 pgs)
Rated: 3 stars
Review by Dandelion

What is it about guys with guitars in their hands that makes them so irresistible, even when they are obviously self-centered jerks? If Abby and Maggie could answer that question, maybe they could finally get over Nathaniel. There’s just something about him when he picks up his guitar and gets behind the microphone, something that makes sensible women act like teeny-boppers instead of rational, self-respecting adults.

Abby was first sucked in by Nathaniel’s rock ’n roll swagger four years ago when a drunken fling turned into a series of drunken hook-ups that became something like a relationship. Now, as New Year’s Eve promises a fresh start, she wants to believe he’s finally going to grow up and take their relationship seriously.

What does Nathaniel hope the new year will bring? An escape from the disappointing realities of his life. He’s thirty-four years old and he’s barely making ends meet as an adjunct philosophy professor, which was always only a back up plan anyway. Nathaniel’s real goal was always to make his living as a musician, but his band, The Latecomers, broke up a couple of years ago, and he hasn’t picked up his guitar in months. When he decides to spend the holiday with some high school friends instead of hanging out at the bar where Abby works, he gets the happy surprise of reuniting with his long-lost friend Maggie. Newly divorced, Maggie has just moved back to her mother’s house to regroup.

Nathaniel and Maggie were supposed to be the ones who left Worcester forever to conquer the world. He was going to be a rock star. She was going to take the world of art by storm. He’s never gotten farther than Boston, and her best effots only left her broke and heartbroken. As they ring in the New Year together, Nathaniel decides it’s time to take control of his life and to start making his dreams come true. He thinks the first step will be easy. All he needs to do is break up with Abby and finally admit his feelings for Maggie. But the new year has more surprises in store, and nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

This was a challenging read that certainly makes you think about choices and how the affect our lives.

Truthfully, I didn’t really care for either party when I first started reading this story. Both seemed so self-absorbed and not into each other. Abby had become involved with Nathanial when she first met him at the bar where she was working. He played his guitar with his band. Abby was interested because of this, and so had been with him for years. She doesn’t really love him, and he doesn’t really love her, but still they stayed together.

Now, on New Year’s Eve, Abby is hoping that Nathanial is finally going to ask her to marry him. But Nathaniel is hoping that soon he can escape from his humdrum existence with someone he barely tolerates. Neither party is really happy with their lives. This seemed really sad to me. Nathanial is struggling financially as an adjunct professor, barely making a living. His original plan in life was to be a musician. But his band, The Latecomers, broke up and he hasn’t picked up his guitar in months.

He decides to go to a party with his old friends instead of hanging out with Abby, and while at the party, he sees his first love, Maggie, from his High school days. Spending time with her makes him realize that he is wasting his time with Abby and he decides to break up with Abby. Seems easy enough, but that’s when stuff starts getting very confused.

Things start to change for all three of them on New Year’s Eve. He is in one town, Abby is in another. This gives them both a chance to look long and hard at their relationship. It is much more involved than that, however, and it was at this point I found myself beginning to really get into the story. It started becoming very interesting as I read about how each person started learning more about themselves and decided to change. It was really way past time for them, and I enjoyed reading about all the choices, good and bad, they made. Finally! Some growth!

Overall, this was a well written story, and I enjoyed the writing style of the author. She has a voice that entertains and keeps the reader interested. This wasn’t an easy read, and sometimes wasn’t pleasant, but it offers a bit of a message to us all and does have a worthwhile and satisfying ending — something I wasn’t sure the author would be able to accomplish, but she pulled it off! Nicely done, Ms. Mulligan.