The Lies Among Us by Sarah Beth Durst

The Lies Among Us by Sarah Beth Durst
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Cholla

After her mother dies, Hannah doesn’t know how to exist without her. Literally. In fact, Hannah’s not even certain that she does exist. No one seems to see or hear her, and she finds herself utterly alone. Grief-stricken and confused, her sense of self slowly slipping away, Hannah sets out to find new purpose in life—and answers about who (and what) she really is.

Hannah’s only remaining family is her older sister, Leah. Yet even Leah doesn’t seem to notice her. And while Hannah can see and hear her sister, she also sees beautiful and terrible things that don’t—or shouldn’t—exist. She learns there’s much more to this world than meets the eye and struggles to make sense of it all.

When Hannah sees Leah taking the same dangerous path that consumed their own mother—where lies supplant reality—she’s desperate to get through to her. But facing difficult truths is harder than it looks…

What happens to a lie after the liar is gone?

For two decades, Hannah’s only focus has been on her mother. But when her mother dies, Hannah’s world and everything she knows is shattered. How does she find her way without the most important person in her life?

Hannah is one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever met. While she stumbles a bit after her mother’s death, she eventually finds her direction after a chance meeting. Sylvie is everything Hannah never thought she could be, and together they alter each other’s perception of the world and the reality they live in. They are truly the biggest catalyst for character development in each other, which was really fascinating to watch.

Leah, on the other hand, doesn’t handle her mother’s death very well. There were so many unresolved issues between them that it’s extra hard for her to process the loss. She lashes out, acts erratically, and attempts to shut out everyone who cares about her while she struggles through her grief. It was heartbreaking to watch, but very real and extremely visceral.

The thing that will stick with me long after I’ve put this book up on my bookshelf is how Hannah reinvents herself after her mother dies. She finds new purpose and new adventures, all while holding onto her past. In addition, there is so much insight into how humans work in this novel. A favorite quote, “Who we are is who we’ve been. And who we’ve known.” That hit me right where it hurt. Every person we meet, even peripherally, becomes a part of us in a way.

The Lies Among Us is one of the most interesting and unique stories I’ve read in a long time. It’s hard to even review it properly. Beautifully written and strewn with intriguing characters, I couldn’t stop reading once I started. We all know that we’ll inevitably lose someone who means the world to us, but we’re never quite ready for it, even when we have advanced notice of it. This novel shows you both the horror and beauty of love, loss, and moving on in a relatable and emotional way.

The Devil and Mrs. Davenport by Paulette Kennedy

The Devil and Mrs. Davenport by Paulette Kennedy
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical, Fiction, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

The first day of autumn brought the fever, and with the fever came the voices.

Missouri, 1955. Loretta Davenport has led an isolated life as a young mother and a wife to Pete, an ambitious assistant professor at a Bible college. They’re the picture of domestic tranquility—until a local girl is murdered and Loretta begins receiving messages from beyond. Pete dismisses them as delusions of a fevered female imagination. Loretta knows they’re real—and frightening.

Defying Pete’s demands, Loretta finds an encouraging supporter in parapsychologist Dr. Curtis Hansen. He sees a woman with a rare gift, more blessing than curse. With Dr. Hansen’s help, Loretta’s life opens up to an empowering new purpose. But for Pete, the God-fearing image he’s worked so hard to cultivate is under threat. No longer in control of his dutiful wife, he sees the Devil at work.

As Loretta’s powers grow stronger and the pleading spirits beckon, Pete is determined to deliver his wife from evil. To solve the mysteries of the dead, Loretta must first save herself.

Set in 1955, Missouri, this story tells the tale of a housewife, Loretta Davenport, with gifts and the serious problems that come with it. Her husband Pete teaches at a Bible college. He is a traditional guy but is a bit unreasonable when it comes to his wife and his expectations.

When a girl is murdered, Loretta gets messages from the other side of the veil. Pete thinks she just has an overexcited imagination. When Loretta befriends Dr. Curtis Hansen, Pete is not happy about this. He becomes more and more difficult.

The pace picks up in this mystery as the danger unfolds for Loretta and a friend of the murdered girl who is also threatened. Can Loretta help her before it is too late? Things might be too late for herself as Pete becomes abusive and wants to lock her up.

Themes of mental health, family, friends, abuse, and forgiveness are weaved within the pages of this mystery. The characterization is done well, and this book has complexity and depth. It is also respectful of the times, being true to the setting.

There’s No Coming Back From This by Ann Garvin

There’s No Coming Back From This by Ann Garvin
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

It seems lately that Poppy Lively is invisible to everyone but the IRS.

After her accountant absconded with her life savings, newly bankrupt Poppy is on the verge of losing her home when an old flame, now a hotshot producer, gives her a surprising way out: a job in costumes on a Hollywood film set. It’s a bold move to pack her bags, keep secrets from her daughter, and head to Los Angeles, but Poppy’s a capable person—how hard can a job in wardrobe be? It’s not like she has a choice; her life couldn’t get any worse. Even so, this midwesterner has a lot to learn about the fast and loose world of movie stars, iconic costumes, and back-lot intrigue.

As a single mom, she’s rarely had time for watching movies, she doesn’t sew, and she doesn’t know a thing about dressing the biggest names in the business. Floundering and overlooked, Poppy has one ally: Allen Carol, an ill-tempered movie star taken with Poppy’s unfiltered candor and general indifference to stardom.

When Poppy stumbles upon corruption, she relies on everyone underestimating her to discover who’s at the center of it, a revelation that shakes her belief in humanity. What she thought was a way to secure a future for her daughter becomes a spotlight illuminating the facts: Poppy is out of her league among the divas of Tinseltown.

Poppy must decide whether to keep her mouth shut, as she’s always done, or with the help of a scruffy dog, show the moviemakers that they need her unglamorous ways, whether the superstars like it or not.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Poppy Lively sure is desperate. By trusting the wrong person at the wrong time, her entire life has been sent into a tailspin, one she doesn’t think she’ll be able to pull herself – or her daughter – out of in time. So, what does a mom do when there’s nothing left to do? She accepts a job from a man she hasn’t seen in over a decade and moves across the country for a job. Of course she does, right?

Poppy Lively is your typical Midwestern mom. Hardworking, loving, and dedicated to her only child, So dedicated that she does everything in her power to make sure that her daughter has no idea that they’re about to lose everything. Her journey from single mom in Wisconsin to the costume department on a move set in Los Angeles is one that so many make, but never for the reasons she chose.

Her transformation is amazing. When she arrives in LA, Poppy is uncertain, confused, and hopeless. She has no one and nowhere to go, so she sneaks about trying not to get caught surviving. The more desperate her situation becomes, the less she starts to care about what others might think and sets her eye on the prize. Along the way, she gets some very unexpected help from a movie star, an arrogant but traumatized young woman, and a dog that was thrust into her care.

Packed full of laughter, life lessons, and a ton of spunky characters, There’s No Coming Back from This is an entertaining adventure of one woman who is out of her element. Poppy is a brilliant light in a city full of burnt-out bulbs. Even in her lowest moments, I was rooting for her and knew she’d succeed in the end.

Dreaming of Flight by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Dreaming of Flight by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult (8 – older)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Never knowing his parents, eleven-year-old Stewie Little and his brother have been raised on a farm by their older sister. Stewie steadfastly tends the chickens left by his beloved late grandmother. And every day Stewie goes door to door selling fresh eggs from his wagon—a routine with a surprise just around the corner. It’s his new customer, Marilyn. She’s prickly and guarded, yet comfortably familiar—she reminds the grieving Stewie so much of the grandmother he misses more than he can express.

Marilyn has a reason for keeping her distance: a secret no one knows about. Her survival tactic is to draw a line between herself and other people—one that Stewie is determined to cross. As their visits become more frequent, a complicated but deeply rooted relationship grows. That’s when Stewie discovers how much more there is to Marilyn, to her past, and to challenges that become more pressing each day. But whatever difficult times lie ahead, Stewie learns that although he can’t fix everything for Marilyn or himself, at least he’s no longer alone.

I don’t know where to start on my review about this book. I enjoyed it tremendously! The writing style, the characters, the realness of the story and the teachable moments – all of it. I enjoyed it all.

This conversation between Stewie and Marilyn’s daughter, Betty will stay with me.: “You’re just upset because she doesn’t say the same things she would have said before. Instead of being so sure about exactly how you want her to be, why can’t you just be glad because she’s there?”

In a world where I’ve found myself drawn to watching more television shows and movies than I read, this book made me want to read. I enjoyed the time spent following the story of eleven-year-old Stewie Little. A young boy who has lost several loved ones at a very early age. He lives with his older sister, Stacey and brother Theo.

Stewie continues to take care of his deceased grandmother’s chicken. One day on his egg delivery route he meets a new customer, Marilyn. Marilyn seems to be a tough character to deal with, but Stewie took a liking to her, as her spry ways and mannerism reminds him of his grandmother.

This starts the beginning of a relationship that Marilyn didn’t want to happen. Neither did Stacey, Stewie’s older sister. Stacey’s concern for Stewie is touching to read. She recognized the many losses that Stewie has faced but she didn’t know what to do. Though their family was small I felt the closeness that the three must have needed to cope. At times it seemed they walked on eggshells for Stewie, but I like that Stewie is a strong and courageous young boy. I liked that if he didn’t understand something he spoke up. This was humorous in how he stated he didn’t know what words or phrases meant. Marilyn always took the time to explain it to him. Marilyn came into Stewie’s life at a time when Stewie really needed her. And Stewie in turn was there for Marilyn. I enjoyed and took to heart the words of wisdom from Marilyn to Stewie, in fact I’ve highlighted them on my Kindle; they are just that impacting. Towards the end of the book Stewie starts to give Marilyn and others, words of wisdom. (Hence the quote at the start of this review)

The relationship between the two is beautiful and heartwarming. I found joy that Stewie had someone he could be close to, that didn’t take advantage of him and also able to sense what he needed. Marilyn uplifted him up, educated him and filled a void that Stewie had. Stewie didn’t have biological parents or grandparents, but he had a village. Dr. Briggs helped Stewie through his complicated emotions by giving him thought provoking questions. It was a little concerning that Stewie didn’t have friends his age, but I could see that Stewie was mature for his age and didn’t seem to fit in with others of his age.

The ending felt true to life, but also hurt. The author touched on a lot in this book. Loss, and grief, from both Stewie’s view and also Marilyn’s view. Overcoming what life throws at you and having someone or people to help you along the way. That family or people that love you aren’t always blood related. That we should pay attention to those we love in case they do need help. Getting help is okay. Doing something good for someone else also helps you in return. It also gives some insight of those that are of age who feel like they have lost their freedom, their choice, and maybe even their personal rights once they’ve been moved into an assisted living facility.

I can go on and on about how much I enjoyed this book. So instead of reading my review I suggest you go ahead and get a copy of the book and enjoy it for yourself.

The Seven Day Switch by Kelly Harms

The Seven Day Switch by Kelly Harms
Publisher: Lake Union publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Two moms as opposite as a Happy Meal and a quinoa bowl. What a difference a week makes in a heartfelt, laugh-out-loud novel by the Washington Post bestselling author of The Overdue Life of Amy Byler.

Celeste Mason is the Pinterest stay-at-home supermom of other mothers’ nightmares. Despite her all-organic, SunButter-loving, free-range kids, her immaculate home, and her volunteering awards, she still has time to relax with a nice glass of pinot at the end of the day. The only thing that ruins it all is her workaholic, career-obsessed neighbor, who makes no secret of what she thinks of Celeste’s life choices every chance she gets.

Wendy Charles is a celebrated productivity consultant, columnist, and speaker. On a minute-by-minute schedule, she makes the working-mom hustle look easy. She even spends at least one waking hour a day with her kids. She’s not apologizing for a thing. Especially to Celeste, who plays her superior parenting against Wendy whenever she can.

Who do Celeste and Wendy think they are? They’re about to find out thanks to one freaky week. After a neighborhood potluck and too much sangria, they wake up—um, what?—in each other’s bodies. Everything Celeste and Wendy thought they knew about the “other kind of mom” is flipped upside down—along with their messy, complicated, maybe not so different lives.

Celeste and Wendy could not be more different, but they’re about to find out what’s it’s like to live in another’s shoes—literally. Celeste is a stay-at-home mom and new to town. Wendy is a workaholic mom who looks down on Celeste. Then one day an amazing thing happens; they wake up in each other’s bodies.

This is a scary thing for both, and some big lessons are in store for these women. They must raise each other’s kids for a while and deal with each other’s husbands. This situation is written in a realistic way. The women notice things and think things that are quite believable. As they stumble through each other’s lives, they find out that certain judgements they made were not accurate.

The kids, the husbands, the friends, and others are the perfect secondary characters to make this story unfold naturally. They get into little binds and big ones and handle things with their own quirky ways.

Family is a big theme here, as is friendship and female choices and empowerment. The characters grow, and it is entertaining to follow them on their paths to discovery.

What Passes as Love by Trisha R. Thomas

What Passes as Love by Trisha R. Thomas
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

A young woman pays a devastating price for freedom in this heartrending and breathtaking novel of the nineteenth-century South.

1850. I was six years old the day Lewis Holt came to take me away.

Born into slavery, Dahlia never knew her mother—or what happened to her. When Dahlia’s father, the owner of Vesterville plantation, takes her to work in his home as a servant, she’s desperately lonely. Forced to leave behind her best friend, Bo, she lives in a world between black and white, belonging to neither.

Ten years later, Dahlia meets Timothy Ross, an Englishman in need of a wife. Reinventing herself as Lily Dove, Dahlia allows Timothy to believe she’s white, with no family to speak of, and agrees to marry him. She knows the danger of being found out. She also knows she’ll never have this chance at freedom again.

Ensconced in the Ross mansion, Dahlia soon finds herself held captive in a different way—as the dutiful wife of a young man who has set his sights on a political future. But when Bo arrives on the estate in shackles, Dahlia decides to risk everything to save his life. With suspicions of her true identity growing and a bounty hunter not far behind, Dahlia must act fast or pay a devastating price.

Only when they’ve lost it all do they find a new beginning.

What Passes as Love is a rapid page-turner that is so thought-provoking, and poetic at times. I didn’t want to stop reading… I was that mesmerized. Dahlia Holt takes readers on her pursuit of freedom. Though the story is told from Dahlia’s and Bo’s viewpoint there are memorable life lessons and conversations that were had with Papa Sap and Mother Rose that stuck with me. Papa Sap was the elder voice of reason to young Bo. “You can’t ask why if you want any peace. You just gotta let ‘em go.” And thanks to Mother Rose and her love for Dahlia, Dahlia was able to learn to read, write and other valuable things becoming of a lady.

Dahlia and Bo both were motherless children and shared a bond at an early age. Dahlia didn’t fit in in the slave quarters and her two sisters didn’t make her feel welcomed in their father’s, slave owner Lewis Holt’s home. With the desire in her heart for freedom Dahlia takes the opportunity that became available to get just that. Dahlia was my favorite character. She is strong willed and set on finding her identity, and her freedom. She can be careless but she is also brave. Dahlia has the power to exploit the ignorance and lies of her captors but she is wise beyond her years and use the information when necessary.

Timothy Ross seemed to be a free spirit that also took advantage of an opportunity available to him. Dahlia is soon to find out. Dahlia doesn’t let this ruin her sight on freedom she starts working on another plan. With a bounty on her head and once again being judged for her choice of actions and for her skin color by those in the slave quarters bringing about more adversity. Dahlia didn’t waver in her quest for freedom. Cleo was another favorite character. She was a voice of reason for Dahlia and saw things from Dahlia’s point of view where others of Color didn’t. She also tried to keep Dahlia in character as a lady of the house and how she should act. I was glad that Dahlia had someone looking out for her.

There was something about Ryland and I wasn’t sure if I trusted him but I wanted to. He knew Dahlia’s secret and still wanted to be with her and in the end, he loved her enough to let her go.

I didn’t like Essie and I knew she would be trouble. Was it jealousy? While reading, of any of those that judged Dahlia for her choices, I wondered what would they do if they were in her shoes? I feel the author was going for something deep and soulfully beautiful. This was an emotional book that I can tell the author put so much heart into creating.

This book is so deep and thought provoking. Yes similar stories have been written, but Dahlia’s character distilled the heartache of not having a mother’s love, separated from those that are called family because of the brutality of humanity that reveals the evil and selfish greed that man is capable. Dahlia’s story can also reveal the pure love that can unite us in times of such brutality. The author certainly knows how to craft a tense scene with sharp dialogue, and such visual scenes.

There were sexual situations, thankfully without much description. The pace is even and has a good balance of tension and suspense as it carries you along to find out what Dahlia is doing and how will she recover.

What Passes as Love was everything I wanted, and so much more. I would highly recommend this beautifully written account of a lowly human spirit having the courage and resilience to fight for her liberty and her freedom to love.

The Last Green Valley by Mark Sullivan

The Last Green Valley by Mark Sullivan
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

In late March 1944, as Stalin’s forces push into Ukraine, young Emil and Adeline Martel must make a terrible decision: Do they wait for the Soviet bear’s intrusion and risk being sent to Siberia? Or do they reluctantly follow the wolves—murderous Nazi officers who have pledged to protect “pure-blood” Germans?

The Martels are one of many families of German heritage whose ancestors have farmed in Ukraine for more than a century. But after already living under Stalin’s horrifying regime, Emil and Adeline decide they must run in retreat from their land with the wolves they despise to escape the Soviets and go in search of freedom.
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Caught between two warring forces and overcoming horrific trials to pursue their hope of immigrating to the West, the Martels’ story is a brutal, complex, and ultimately triumphant tale that illuminates the extraordinary power of love, faith, and one family’s incredible will to survive and see their dreams realized.

The Last Green Valley is inspiring as well as entertaining. A family who is ethnically German but living in Ukraine in 1944 is caught between the bear and the wolves (Stalin and Hitler). What a terrible decision. They do what they must to survive, and extreme danger is at every turn.

This family—the Martels—and their near relatives flee as refugees, and life is difficult, to say the least. Heart-breaking decisions must be made along the way, and the Martels suffer in different manners. Sometimes the troubles are physical, but sometimes they are mental and emotional and…haunting. How is this family going to survive such trials?

Emil Martel has lost his faith, even though his wife Adeline has not. Then they meet a man who appears to have lost his link with reality. This man changes Emil’s life in an unexpected way.

The manner in which the Martels deal with their troubles is quite moving. Their triumphs will feel like the readers’ triumphs. The author of this book has done a great job at making the characters and their world so real. This is a memorable story and should be on the reading list of anyone who enjoys true historical stories.

You Can’t Catch Me by Catherine McKenzie

You Can’t Catch Me by Catherine McKenzie
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Thriller
Length: Full length (335 pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Do you want to play a game?

Twelve years ago Jessica Williams escaped a cult. Thanks to the private detective who rescued her, she reintegrated into society, endured an uncomfortable notoriety, and tried to put it all behind her. Then, at an airport bar, Jessica meets a woman with an identical name and birth date. It appears to be just an odd coincidence—until a week later, when Jessica finds her bank account drained and her personal information stolen.
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Following a trail of the grifter’s victims, each with the same name, Jessica gathers players—one by one—for her own game. According to her plan, they’ll set a trap and wait for the impostor to strike again. But plans can go awry, and trust can fray, and as Jessica tries to escape the shadows of her childhood, the risks are greater than she imagined. Now, confronting the casualties of her past, Jessica can’t help but wonder…

Who will pay the price?

Jessica Williams has come far from the days in the Land of Todd – the cult she was raised in. However, one bad decision unravels everything for her in a moment. Just when she thinks that she’s about to get back on her feet and move forward, her entire world explodes. Will Jessica be able to find the grifter who stole her money before she does it to someone else? She’d better move fast if she wants to get ahead of the game.

In the beginning, it’s hard to know whether Jessica Williams is a good person or not. She’s done something unethical as far as her job goes, even though she knew from the beginning it would end her career if she was found out. However, as her past is revealed and I began to understand the person underneath, she became more likable. I wanted to root for her, despite her mistakes and dumb choices. Sometimes, she made it really hard, too. But in the end, I really do think she was as good of a person as she was able to be, faults and all.

From the beginning, I didn’t think trying to trap Jessica Two was a good idea. However, there wouldn’t be much of a story if she didn’t try, right? The lengths she goes to in order to track down other Jessica Williams’ is a bit much at times, but in the age of technology, I can believe that this kind of thing happens more than we want to admit. What happens once they set their trap for the grifter is something else altogether. All I can say is buckle up because it’s going to be a bumpy ride from here on out.

You Can’t Catch Me was a wild ride of a story. So many twists and turns and the end completely caught me off guard. Also, the letters at the very end surprised the heck out of me. The information revealed in the letters at the end really took me by surprise. Excellent way to end a crazy, twisted novel. I’d highly recommend this to anyone who loves twisty thrillers with gritty female leads.

This Terrible Beauty by Katrin Schumann

This Terrible Beauty by Katrin Schumann
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (381 pgs)
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Snapdragon

From the bestselling author of The Forgotten Hours comes an unforgettable story of one woman’s journey to reclaim what she lost in a country torn apart by the devastating legacy of WWII.

On the windswept shores of an East German island, Bettina Heilstrom struggles to build a life from the ashes. World War II has ended, and her country is torn apart. Longing for a family, she marries Werner, an older bureaucrat who adores her. But after joining the fledgling secret police, he is drawn deep into its dark mission and becomes a dangerous man.

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Ten years later, Bettina has reinvented herself as a celebrated photographer in Chicago, but she’s never stopped yearning for the baby she left behind. Surprised by an unexpected visitor from her past, she resolves to return to her ravaged homeland to reclaim her daughter and uncover her beloved’s fate, whatever the cost.

From the start of This Terribly Beauty we are effortlessly transported into Bettina’s life and her past. Ms. Schuman offers of the story of a life confronted by challenges; those large challenges involving World War II, as well as personal challenges, made by the main character. Bettina’s circumstances are often out of her control, but her early decision to follow her heart, her judgments and her eventual resolution are all understandable.

We, as readers, are drawn in and find ourselves sympathizing even with choices we might not have made ourselves. It is easy to share outrage, loss and conviction. She sees her world as if through the lens of a camera and more and more becomes clear. Love both captivates the main character and traps her.

The author writes her prose with immediacy; with an in-the-moment quality that is hard to describe. At the outset, I thought to find fault with it, but progressing, found myself drawn in, so the style disappeared and all that is left is story and the emotions.

Background details seem to emerge in almost poetic turns of phrase, for example: “…there’s an unruly rosebush twisting its way over the step…” and ” …memories live in each closet.”

The synopsis really does this book no service, leading me to expect a rather abrupt drama, rather than the thoughtful and heartfelt life’s journey This Terrible Beauty offers. Five solid stars and I highly recommend you add This Terrible Beauty to your “must read” list.

This Won’t End Well by Camille Pagan

This Won’t End Well by Camille Pagan
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full length (303 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

No new people: that’s Annie Mercer’s vow. It’s bad enough that her boss sabotaged her chemistry career and her best friend tried to cure her with crystals. But after her fiancé, Jon, asks for space while he’s gallivanting around Paris, Annie decides she needs space too—from everyone.

Yet when Harper moves in next door, Annie can’t help but train a watchful eye on the glamorous but fragile young woman. And if keeping Harper safe requires teaming up with Mo, a maddeningly optimistic amateur detective, who is she to mind her own business?

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What’s a girl to do when her fiance has up and left for Paris without notice, her mom has spent the latter years depressed, her best friend thinks crystals are a cure for all and she quit her job due to her boss’s sexual advances? Annie’s answer is to alienate herself and swear off new people. But how long will this last when Harper moves in next door and she literally falls on top of handsome private investigator Mo?

Annie Mercer a twenty-seven year old scientist whose life seems to be going down hill fast shares her story through journal writing and emails. I think the author took a bold approach in telling the story this way. I was quickly won over as Annie’s story progressed. Annie is a character that drew me in. Her life’s in chaos but she makes the most with the small circle of people who surround her. I enjoyed seeing Annie’s growth as she tries to make sense of the madness called her life. For this I think she is a character that other female readers may find relatable. I started out feeling sympathy for Annie due to her current setback of circumstances. Lost, a recluse, hurt by people and ready to wallow in her pain. With the beautiful, mothering advice from my favorite character Ms. Viola, Annie kept calm during the bewilderment and emerged.

Annie’s relationships were safe but as she journals her story the two new people she meets, it helps her reevaluate herself and find her strength to write a better life. I never felt a connection between Annie and Jon. I’m not sure if the author planned it that way or if that’s just the circumstances of the relationship between the two. Annie’s light seem to shine on those she knew and she inspired them with her kind spirit. The space that Jon asked for wasn’t understood by Annie but I think in the end the space helped her see other possibilities for her life. I was proud of Annie’s stance in her August 10th email to Jon. Annie standing in the reality and pain and thinking of herself. Jon seemed to be a good guy but his actions were selfish and inconsiderate. He took the easy way out instead of using words to express to Annie how he felt about his career and other things at a time when Annie was left to deal with life after being sexually harassed and quitting her job.

I think Annie’s treatment of Leesa was a down trickle of her unhappiness, her sense of loss. I enjoyed the humorous parts of Annie’s observation of Harper and her excuse to work in the yard. The emails from the Oak Grove Neighborhood Associate were hilarious.

What I took away from this book is growth, friendships, and life delivers in surprising ways and if you’re willing to look for joy and open yourself to new possibilities, the end is not an ending at all.

This is the second book I’ve read by this author. She has a talent for writing books with humor that also give a story of real life drama. I look forward to reading other books she’s written.