The Love of My Other Life by C.J. Connolly


The Love of My Other Life by C.J. Connolly
Publisher: Joffe Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Imagine you woke up with the perfect life . . . But it wasn’t yours.

Today is Josie’s 36th birthday.

Josie is a single British woman living in a tiny walk-up in Brooklyn. She misses her family, but her radio show is starting to go places. And sure, she could be a dress size smaller, but no one cares what you look like on the radio. The guy she’s had a crush on for months is finally going to break up with his girlfriend. She hopes.

She’s zipping through traffic on her way to meet her friends for dinner at a SoHo restaurant. There’s a screech of brakes, Josie crashes her bike and her world goes black.

Then something extraordinary happens.

She wakes up in hospital. The handsome stranger by her side, holding her hand and telling her he loves her, is Rob. Her husband of two years. They live in a chic Manhattan penthouse. She works in real estate. And she’s thirty pounds slimmer than when she got on her bike that morning.

Josie has no idea how she got here. This new life is everything she ever wanted. But there’s one very important thing missing . . .

And now she has to decide: should she go back to her old single life in Brooklyn or stay with the love of her nearly perfect new life?

What would you do?

What if you found yourself in a great situation suddenly, but the world around you wasn’t the one you had always known? Josie, turning 36, suffers a bike accident and wakes up to discover that her “husband” was a stranger. Also, she’s now suddenly wealthy.

This is a parallel universe type of story where two “Josie’s” live each other’s lives. They trade places. Both of their lives have advantages. Josie #1 (Me) and Josie #2 (Her) see benefits in staying in their new worlds. For example, Josie #2 now has her brother back. He never died in this world. She gets to enjoy seeing him fall in love and start a family.

Josie #1 is now living in luxury with a gorgeous man who loves her. However, both women will have to sacrifice something important to stay where they are. Interesting questions come up. They end up falling for each other’s men. Is it cheating when they get involved with them? Would it be worth going back to their rightful worlds?

Things escalate as the stakes get higher. Characters are developed well enough to differentiate and make a difference to the plot. Two sides of Josie come out, and the people around them have realistic reactions to them. Their worlds are described well enough to give readers a real feel for them.

This book is good escapist reading. Recommended.

In The Shadow of The Apennines by Kimberly Sullivan


In The Shadow of The Apennines by Kimberly Sullivan
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Womens Fiction
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

An American divorcée. An Italian shepherdess.
Separated by a century, united by common dreams

The sleepy little Abruzzo mountain town of Marsicano seems about as far as Samantha can flee from her failed marriage and disastrous university career. Eager for a fresh start, Samantha begins to set down roots in her Italian mountain hideaway.

At first, the mountain retreat appears idyllic, but an outsider’s clumsy attempts at breaking into the closed mountain community are quickly thwarted when the residents discover Samantha’s snarky blog ridiculing the town and its inhabitants.

Increasingly isolated in her mountain cottage, Samantha discovers the letters and diaries of Elena, a past tenant and a survivor of the 1915 Pescina earthquake. Despite the century that separates the two women, Samantha feels increasingly drawn into Elena’s life, and discovers startling parallels with her own.

What a beautifully written story! I absolutely love both the main characters – Samantha in the present and Elena in the past via the journals Samantha discovers in her new home.

I love the fact that Samantha takes back control of her life after her husband divorces her by completely moving away and trying to create a new life near the Apennines. What a beautiful area! The author’s descriptions make me want to go there myself.

Samantha, although wanting to fit in to the close-knit community, sabotages herself through her writing and finds herself completely isolated during the harsh winter- with only the journals of Elena for company.

The juxtaposition of Samantha and Elena’s lives make for fascinating reading. And I think this book would make a wonderful movie as well. Kudos, Ms. Sullivan! I’ll be on the lookout for more books by this author.

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*Ice Storm by Tracy Goodwin


*Ice Storm by Tracy Goodwin
New York Nighthawks, Book 3
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Loveswept
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Women’s fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

When an injured hockey legend with a PR problem and a former teen star craving an edgier public image start a fake relationship, neither expects a real challenge—ignoring their fiery chemistry—in this steamy friends-to-lovers romance.

Theo: They call me Thor. I’m the showman with mad skills on and off the ice until a nagging injury forces me to confront—long-term—the possibility that my career is coming to an early end. All endorsement deals hinge on my reputation, and my bad-boy persona isn’t cutting it. To keep my sponsorships, I need a major image overhaul. Enter Olivia DeLaurentis, the quintessential girl next door who’s hell-bent on shedding her good-girl charade, and what better way than to get together with a rule-breaking Avenger wannabe? So she and I strike an agreement—we pretend-date. The odds of anything real happening between us are slim, especially since we’re already friends and she’s also my best friend’s sister. One problem: She turns me on, and I learn real fast that Liv is playing by her own rules.

Olivia: I was a teenage America’s Sweetheart, but what I once thought was the opportunity of a lifetime has left me typecast as an innocent, naïve girl—and I’m sick of it. My brother’s best friend, bad-boy hockey star Theo Ture, needs some positive PR, so I offer a fake relationship. It’s not my first. The difference? This time I’m in complete control. What’s there to lose? Certainly not my heart since Theo’s already friend-zoned. Plus, the poster boy for an alpha male—bold, brash, tattooed—is not my type. At all. But there’s one problem: I didn’t expect the explosive chemistry between us, or the vulnerability behind his tough-guy façade. Or that he has a hidden secret I’m desperate to uncover. He’s not the only one with secrets, though—and as the lines of our fake relationship blur, I’m worried I’ll be the one exposed. . . .

Ice Storm is a perfect blend of hockey, romance and friendship. I loved every minute of this heartwarming story. The plot is interesting, the characters are engaging, and I never wanted this story to end. The two main characters, Theo and Olivia are easy to connect with, they share a lot of chemistry, and I enjoyed reading about all of their encounters.

Theo is a professional hockey player dealing with the possibility of his hockey career ending. Olivia has been in Theo’s life for a long time and there has always been a spark simmering between them. They have always been there for each other through all the ups and downs in life.

Theo and Olivia’s story is enchanting. They are both dealing with some important issues in their lives and help each other come to some decisions about what their future will look like. They bring out the best in each other and their story left me with a smile on my face.

A School of Daughters by Kate René MacKenzie


A School of Daughters by Kate René MacKenzie
Publisher: Red Lace Books
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Rated: 5 stars
Reviewed by Rose

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

It’s funny how things sneak up on you…

Kate Willoughby is a champion for throwaways—discarded dogs and cats, abandoned horses bound for slaughter, and all creatures great and small. But now it’s Kate who’s alone in a hostile world like a dog dumped by the side of a road. Is there a champion for Kate?

After 22 years of marriage, Kate loves her husband, Brian, with an even greater passion than when she spoke her vows. “My world spins on his axis,” she often says. But when Kate finds a love letter to Brian from Micky, she’s torn between proving Brian’s innocence and nailing him to the wall with his guilt.

Throughout her marriage, Kate has been trusting and trustworthy —to a fault, friends have said. Now, she steals into Brian’s emails and accesses his credit card accounts, phone records, bank statements, friends and activities, discovering the metaphoric iceberg beneath Brian’s affair.

Turning to the one constant in her life, Kate is guided by her family of animals: shelter dog Molly; Premarin horse Quinn; packrat Winston; owls Albert & Victoria; Stubby, the chipmunk; rattlesnake Cassandra; and Phineas, the determined grosbeak. These wise and wonderful teachers, along with a wild menagerie on her Arizona ranch, deliver lessons on life, love, and letting go. But it’s Molly, in a heartbreaking act of courage, who leads Kate back to her true self, before she became lost in love with Brian.

Shining a light on the childhood events and adult choices that, like steppingstones, brought her to this moment, Kate illuminates a familiar and well-worn path. Narrating her story with equal doses of heartache and humor, Kate comes to understand that nothing sneaks up on you that isn’t already here. Learning from Phineas, the determined grosbeak, Kate realizes that even after a devastating injury, you can soar again.

A School of Daughters is a beautifully written, lyrical book that delves into the heart of the main character, highlighting how her current life is rooted in her past, from childhood abuse to the desperate desire for stability at nearly any cost. There is truth here that shines through, and I admire the author for taking her life and sharing it all, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This story hit me hard, in a good way. I was completely engrossed in the story and could see myself and friends in similar situations. Even after finishing the book, I could not stop thinking about Kate, what she was going through, and how her friends and, especially, the animals in her life not only helped her through the pain, but also taught her important life lessons.

The book skips back and forth from present day to situations in her past with not only her husband, but her childhood, other romantic relationships, and with different animals in her life. It is a revealing look on how a person can be strong and yet still give up parts of herself without even realizing it.

Her journey was heartrending, yet the reader is, in the end, left with a sense of hope that Kate will make it through to the other side. Kudos, Ms. MacKenzie. I will definitely be on the lookout for other books by this author.

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The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino


The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

A whimsical, moving novel about a retirement home for literary legends who spar, conjure up new stories, and almost magically change the lives of the people around them.

Alfonse Carducci was a literary giant who lived his life to excess—lovers, alcohol, parties, and literary rivalries. But now he’s come to the Bar Harbor Home for the Elderly to spend the remainder of his days among kindred spirits: the publishing industry’s nearly gone but never forgotten greats. Only now, at the end of his life, does he comprehend the price of appeasing every desire, and the consequences of forsaking love to pursue greatness. For Alfonse has an unshakeable case of writer’s block that distresses him much more than his precarious health.

Set on the water in one of New England’s most beautiful locales, the Bar Harbor Home was established specifically for elderly writers needing a place to live out their golden years—or final days—in understated luxury and surrounded by congenial literary company. A faithful staff of nurses and orderlies surround the writers, and are drawn into their orbit, as they are forced to reckon with their own life stories. Among them are Cecibel Bringer, a young woman who knows first-hand the cost of chasing excess. A terrible accident destroyed her face and her sister in a split-second decision that Cecibel can never forgive, though she has tried to forget. Living quietly as an orderly, refusing to risk again the cost of love, Cecibel never anticipated the impact of meeting her favorite writer, Alfonse Carducci—or the effect he would have on her existence. In Cecibel, Alfonse finds a muse who returns him to the passion he thought he lost. As the words flow from him, weaving a tale taken up by the other residents of the Pen, Cecibel is reawakened to the idea of love and forgiveness.

As the edges between story and reality blur, a world within a world is created. It’s a place where the old are made young, the damaged are made whole, and anything is possible….

My mind is blown by this novel. How do I even write this review? If you’ve read the synopsis – it’s the best synopsis I’ve seen in many a day. This last sentence, “As the edges between story and reality blur, a world within a world is created. It’s a place where the old are made young, the damaged are made whole, and anything is possible….” encapsulates the charm, the wit and wonder, and the romance of different levels of love a person can experience. Some loves make you smile, some leave you wistful, some leave you longing for days gone by, and some transcend the physical, making a person better, more content and fulfilled. Love is, or can be, healing. It can transform pain into joy, and can leave a lasting impression, a legacy if you will. This story with the rather long title, The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses), is an unexpected gem that I’m very pleased to have read.

The catalyst for the plot pivots on one person, Cecibel Bringer. She is the sun, and the other characters are the planets and moons who orbit her, and whose influences make the sun that is Cecibel shine brighter and warmer. I honestly can’t get the words out to describe the relationships between her, Olivia, Switch, Alphonse, Sal, Fin, Judi and Richard. The relationships between everyone were delightful, heartwarming and heartbreaking. This novel and the amazing personalities that flavor it kept me flipping the pages and marveling at the humanity of its characters. I cried. I felt. I experienced a myriad of emotions while reading this book. All of that thanks to the writing skills of Ms. DeFino. I mean, the last chapter turned me into a blubbering fool. It was bittersweet, beautiful, touching and a testimony to all the people in the story that worked their magic on Cecibel. It’s a happy ending in its own way. More realistic, I guess, and very well written.

There is romance of a sort within its pages. There’s a story within a story about a romance that was doomed but never died. There is romance from the past that flavors the present, and a gentle romance, like a flower growing in spring, that tender bud that eventually blooms from the love, care, and nurturing it’s given. Cecibel is the flower that blooms in this book.

I’d have to give this novel a spicy rating, not because it’s intended to be a romance in that vein, but because the views into the past showed the characters during some of their passionate interludes with those they loved. Some were wild, like the one between Alfonse and Cornelius – that was a desperate passion, especially since it happened sometime in the 1950s when those types of relationships were frowned upon – and gentler ones from … well, a reader has to make up their own mind whether it was real or imagined, and the kind one expects in a romance story. I didn’t expect to see those particular scenes because of what I’d read up to that point, but for a change, I didn’t find it gratuitous. It was a major plot shift for a certain character. Then there was the story within the story that had the trappings of a typical spicy romance in a Romeo and Juliet-esqe type fashion.

I’m very glad I happened upon this story, that the book blurb grabbed my interest and, although it’s a book I typically would not read, the synopsis had that special something that spoke to me and said give this story a chance. I’m glad I did. I read it in one day and re-read the final chapter at least four times.

If readers enjoy stories that focus on character relationships in all their fallibility, larger-than-life personalities with secrets to hide, wonderful dialogue and a nicely done wrap-up, then please do give The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (And Their Muses) a try. It’s a definite recommendation.

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg


The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg
Publisher: Random House Publishers
Genre: Historical, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Mrs. Sookie Poole of Point Clear, Alabama, has just married off the last of her daughters and is looking forward to relaxing and perhaps traveling with her husband, Earle. The only thing left to contend with is her mother, the formidable Lenore Simmons Krackenberry. Lenore may be a lot of fun for other people, but is, for the most part, an overbearing presence for her daughter. Then one day, quite by accident, Sookie discovers a secret about her mother’s past that knocks her for a loop and suddenly calls into question everything she ever thought she knew about herself, her family, and her future.

Sookie begins a search for answers that takes her to California, the Midwest, and back in time, to the 1940s, when an irrepressible woman named Fritzi takes on the job of running her family’s filling station. Soon truck drivers are changing their routes to fill up at the All-Girl Filling Station. Then, Fritzi sees an opportunity for an even more groundbreaking adventure. As Sookie learns about the adventures of the girls at the All-Girl Filling Station, she finds herself with new inspiration for her own life.

She wants to know who she is…after getting a strange envelope for her mother!

First off, I read Fannie Flagg for comfort. She’s comfort food in book form. No matter how goofed-up your life might be, her characters are zany enough to make you forget and just enjoy. The characters in this book are no different.

Sookie comes from a small town where everyone knows everyone. Her mother is a grand dame of the town and full of herself. It’s a slice of small-town life that’s normal and relatable. Her world is thrown into upheaval when she finds out she’s adopted. Again, very relatable.

I liked how the author handled the women pilots during the second world war. They were human and relatable, too, despite being fancy pilots who weren’t getting a lot of recognition for their help in the war effort. I have to admit this part of the story could’ve been handled with a more in-depth touch, but that’s okay. For a cursory lesson in women pilots during the war, it works.

I have to admit there were times when I wasn’t a fan of Sookie. She spent a lot of time wallowing. But then again, I didn’t always like Fritzi, either. They made decisions I might not have, but I wasn’t in their position. I did laugh at times–the war with the blue jays–and cried a little too. I won’t disclose where, you’ll have to read it to find out. But it was worth the read.

Good for an afternoon, this book is comfort food. If you want a simple, easy read, then pick it up.

*Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan


*Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan
Publisher: Avon and Harper Voyager
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Women’s fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

For Sewanee Chester, being an audiobook narrator is a long way from her old dreams, but the days of being a star on film sets are long behind her. She’s found success and satisfaction from the inside of a sound booth and it allows her to care for her beloved, ailing grandmother. When she arrives in Las Vegas last-minute for a book convention, Sewanee unexpectedly spends a whirlwind night with a charming stranger.

On her return home, Sewanee discovers one of the world’s most beloved romance novelists wanted her to perform her last book—with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest, most secretive voice. Sewanee doesn’t buy what romance novels are selling—not after her own dreams were tragically cut short—and she stopped narrating them years ago. But her admiration of the late author, and the opportunity to get her grandmother more help, makes her decision for her.

As Sewanee begins work on the book, resurrecting her old romance pseudonym, she and Brock forge a real connection, hidden behind the comfort of anonymity. Soon, she is dreaming again, but secrets are revealed, and the realities of life come crashing down around her once more.

If she can learn to risk everything for desires she has long buried, she will discover a world of intimacy and acceptance she never believed would be hers.

Thank you for Listening took me on an emotional journey.

You have to be open to the possibilities.

I loved reading Sewanee and Nick’s story. They are two realistic, flawed and complicated characters. They are both stuck in a life they aren’t happy with after their lives moved in an unexpected direction. They are vulnerable and afraid to take a chance.

This is an intriguing story that had me quickly turning the pages to find out what would happen next because I was never quite sure what direction it would go. It held me captive from start to finish. This story took me through many emotions: falling in love, family dysfunction and losing your dreams.

There are also some interesting and colorful secondary characters included in the story. I especially loved Sewanee’s grandmother, she was a hoot. Julie Whelan writes a beautiful and touching story.

*The Bodyguard by Katherine Center


*The Bodyguard by Katherine Center
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Women’s fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

She’s got his back.
Hannah Brooks looks more like a kindergarten teacher than somebody who could kill you with a wine bottle opener. Or a ballpoint pen. Or a dinner napkin. But the truth is, she’s an Executive Protection Agent (aka “bodyguard”), and she just got hired to protect superstar actor Jack Stapleton from his middle-aged, corgi-breeding stalker.

He’s got her heart.
Jack Stapleton’s a household name—captured by paparazzi on beaches the world over, famous for, among other things, rising out of the waves in all manner of clingy board shorts and glistening like a Roman deity. But a few years back, in the wake of a family tragedy, he dropped from the public eye and went off the grid.

They’ve got a secret.
When Jack’s mom gets sick, he comes home to the family’s Texas ranch to help out. Only one catch: He doesn’t want his family to know about his stalker. Or the bodyguard thing. And so Hannah—against her will and her better judgment—finds herself pretending to be Jack’s girlfriend as a cover. Even though her ex, like a jerk, says no one will believe it.

What could possibly go wrong???
Hannah hardly believes it, herself. But the more time she spends with Jack, the more real it all starts to seem. And there lies the heartbreak. Because it’s easy for Hannah to protect Jack. But protecting her own, long-neglected heart? That’s the hardest thing she’s ever done.

The Bodyguard is an entertaining and heartwarming story. It centers on Hannah, a personal bodyguard who is dedicated to her job. In fact, Hannah is so consumed with her job she doesn’t have time for anything else in her life. Everything is going well in Hannah’s life, until it all falls apart and she is left feeling adrift and confused.

I decided to read The Bodyguard because It sounded intriguing. Jack is a famous actor and I love reading stories revolving around Hollywood. Hannah is a bodyguard, and I liked the idea of a woman protecting a man, especially a hot Hollywood actor. I liked Jack and Hannah and I enjoyed their story, however, at times, I had a difficult time connecting with them. Overall, I liked the premise of the book and the characters, but it just felt like something was lacking.

Even saying that, the story has its strong points, it kept my interest and I enjoyed reading it. I think other readers will like it too.

*Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan


*Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan
Publisher: Penguin Group Putnam, G. P. Putnam Sons
Genre: Romance, Women’s fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Nora’s life is about to get a rewrite…

Nora Hamilton knows the formula for love better than anyone. As a romance channel screenwriter, it’s her job. But when her too-good-to work husband leaves her and their two kids, Nora turns her marriage’s collapse into cash and writes the best script of her life. No one is more surprised than her when it’s picked up for the big screen and set to film on location at her 100-year-old-home. When former Sexiest Man Alive, Leo Vance, is cast as her ne’er do well husband Nora’s life will never be the same.

The morning after shooting wraps and the crew leaves, Nora finds Leo on her porch with a half-empty bottle of tequila and a proposition. He’ll pay a thousand dollars a day to stay for a week. The extra seven grand would give Nora breathing room, but it’s the need in his eyes that makes her say yes. Seven days: it’s the blink of an eye or an eternity depending on how you look at it. Enough time to fall in love. Enough time to break your heart.

Filled with warmth, wit, and wisdom, Nora Goes Off Script is the best kind of love story—the real kind where love is complicated by work, kids, and the emotional baggage that comes with life. For Nora and Leo, this kind of love is bigger than the big screen.

Is it possible for a movie star to fall for a small town, single mom?

Nora Goes Off Script is a beautifully written, poignant story. It is realistic and the characters have an intense connection that literally jumps off the pages.

Leo and Nora meet when Nora writes a successful book that is being made into a movie and Leo is a high-profile movie star playing the male lead in the movie. When Leo comes into town, Nora discovers he is going to be staying in a trailer on her property. She is surprised to find Leo constantly underfoot. Leo seems content to spend time in Nora’s house and he enjoys learning to do small everyday tasks.

I love how unaffected Nora is by Leo. She treats him like she would anyone else and I think that is what Leo finds so alluring about her. Nora is strong and brave but doesn’t know her worth because her ex continually put her down.

Leo is nothing like Nora imagined he would be. Underneath Leo’s movie star persona he is just a regular guy. Leo has many wonderful qualities and he is easy to like. He is easy going and laid back and he misses being normal and having a regular life.

Leo and Nora are wonderful together. They have incredible chemistry and I enjoyed all their interactions. I liked Leo and Nora individually and loved them together. Nora and Leo are both going through an emotional time in their lives. Their lives are changing and they are trying to figure out their next steps. There are also a lot of entertaining and interesting secondary characters in this story. This story sparkled and left me with a good feeling.

One Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak


One Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak
Publisher: Mira
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Some families we’re born into
Some we find for ourselves

When Serenity Alston swabbed her cheek for a genetic test, she joked about uncovering some dark ancestral scandal. The last thing she expected was to discover two half sisters she didn’t know existed. Suddenly, everything about her loving family is drawn into question. And meeting these newfound sisters might be the only way to get answers.

The women decide to dig into the mystery together at Serenity’s family cabin in Lake Tahoe. With Reagan navigating romantic politics at work and Lorelei staring down the collapse of her marriage, all three women are converging at a crossroads in their lives. Before the summer is over, they’ll have to confront the past and determine how to move forward when everything they previously thought to be true was a lie. But any future is easier to face with family by your side.

Three sisters and one big secret. It’s going to be a long summer.

I have to admit I’d never read a book by Brenda Novak before this one. I don’t know why I waited so long, but I did. I’m glad I’ve rectified this. This was a good book. I liked the writing style and the characters were interesting. I zipped right through this in a matter of a couple days.

I wasn’t a fan of the cheating aspect of the story, but honestly it was not that important compared to the rest of the story. Lorelei had issues and I liked how she grew through the book. Reagan has to grow up, too, but also understand what gifts she’s been given. I liked how she learned gratitude. Then there’s Serenity, the one who got this all started. I liked how she came into her own and found her strength, too. Plus, the plot twists were great.

This isn’t a romance and romance readers might feel a little cheated by not getting a specific romance, but fear not. The story and the various threads more than make up for that. This is a great beach read and something I recommend others reading. Check it out!