*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!

Small Stories: A Perfectly Absurd Novel by Rob Roy O’Keefe


Small Stories: A Perfectly Absurd Novel by Rob Roy O’Keefe
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Satire, Fiction
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

One town is just like another.

Except when it’s the focus of a wild experiment gone off the rails.

Duncan and Maya Small have just moved to an out-of-the-way town full of odd characters, quirky customs, and a power-obsessed local official who believes he should be declared emperor. Duncan is sharp enough to know something needs to change, and delusional enough to believe he’s the one to make it happen. The only thing standing in his way are feral ponies, radical seniors, common sense, and Duncan’s inability to do anything without a list. Oh, and an entire town that won’t take him seriously.

Small Stories: A Perfectly Absurd Novel, is a tale of power, bake sales, manipulation, the Welcome Wagon, deception, and yes, diabolical forces at work in the shadows, although the Smalls soon discover nothing is as it seems. One thing is certain – there’s something funny going on here.

Everything has a rational explanation, right?

My favorite scenes were the ones that dug into the unexpected results of small town politics. Sometimes conflicts with the lowest and pettiest stakes can be the most interesting because of how personally invested people can be in making sure that they receive recognition for their work or that someone they dislike is not chosen for a particular position or award. The author did an excellent job of portraying how frustrating and unintentionally hilarious these moments can be, especially to outsiders who are not yet aware of how seriously some folks take these matters.

I had trouble following the plot due to how often it veered off track to explain all sorts of random bits of information that were loosely related to what the characters were currently doing. This is something I’m saying as someone who generally enjoys these sorts of rabbit trails in stories. They can be a great deal of fun to read, but they happened too often here for this reader’s tastes.

The dialogue was funny and well written. All of the characters had natural speaking voices, and I could easily imagine their conversations happening in real life. This was true even for the zany ones that talked about things like how to keep pufferfish out of their community even though no pufferfish had yet been found there. People do sometimes talk about silly things like this, and the way they spoke in this book rang true to me.

Small Stories: A Perfectly Absurd Novel made me chuckle.

A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker


A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker
Publisher: Knopf Books
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

From the best-selling author of Longbourn, a remarkable imagining of Samuel Beckett’s wartime experiences. In 1939 Paris, the ground rumbles with the footfall of Nazi soldiers marching along the Champs-Élysées, and a young, unknown writer, recently arrived from Ireland to make his mark, smokes one last cigarette with his lover before the city they know is torn apart. Soon he will put them both in mortal danger by joining the Resistance.

Through the years that follow, we are witness to the workings of a uniquely brilliant mind struggling to create a language to express a shattered world. A story of survival and determination, of spies and artists, passion and danger, A Country Road, A Tree is a portrait of the extremes of human experience alchemized into one man’s timeless art.

Was this book rather academic? I have waffled back and forth about that question. It has been a topic of discussion many times. In my opinion, there are two ways to read this book. One is as merely a story, which is what I did. It is an interesting tale of a writer and his girlfriend leading a somewhat Bohemian lifestyle in Europe. Its setting in the European countries during the tough war years of WW2 describes the hardships many of the people in those countries lived with.

However, being the curious person that I am, seeing James Joyce as a character in the book made me do a little research. During that research, I found that this is really not just historical fiction as it is classified, but rather a sort of fictional biographical picture of Samuel Beckett’s life and his time in France during the occupation. This somehow made me feel differently about the book. Was I supposed to just enjoy it as a story or was I supposed to learn more about Beckett? Maybe it doesn’t matter.

It may be that my previous ramblings are what made this book read somewhat slow at the beginning for me. It sped up and flowed quite smoothly as I continued to read. In fact, it became that story I was talking about in the first paragraph. A well-written story of a young man with writer’s block and a young girl wanting very much to help him, both living with a couple trying to make it through the occupation. Jo Baker seems to be an author who is able to write so that the frightening times, the hunger, and the cold and uncertainty, are vividly felt.

Jo Baker has other publications, one has more than 3000 reviews on Amazon. I think everything she has written is worth checking out.

Sister Mother Warrior by Vanessa Riley


Sister Mother Warrior by Vanessa Riley
Publisher: William Morrow an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers
Genre: Historical
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Gran Toya: Born in West Africa, Abdaraya Toya was one of the legendary minos—women called “Dahomeyan Amazons” by the Europeans—who were specially chosen female warriors consecrated to the King of Dahomey. Betrayed by an enemy, kidnapped, and sold into slavery, Toya wound up in the French colony of Saint Domingue, where she became a force to be reckoned with on its sugar plantations: a healer and an authority figure among the enslaved. Among the motherless children she helped raise was a man who would become the revolutionary Jean-Jacques Dessalines. When the enslaved people rose up, Toya, ever the warrior, was at the forefront of the rebellion that changed the course of history.

Marie-Claire: A free woman of color, Marie-Claire Bonheur was raised in an air of privilege and security because of her wealthy white grandfather. With a passion for charitable work, she grew up looking for ways to help those oppressed by a society steeped in racial and economic injustices. Falling in love with Jean-Jacques Dessalines, an enslaved man, was never the plan, yet their paths continued to cross and intertwine, and despite a marriage of convenience to a Frenchman, she and Dessalines had several children.

When war breaks out on Saint Domingue, pitting the French, Spanish, and enslaved people against one another in turn, Marie-Claire and Toya finally meet, and despite their deep differences, they both play pivotal roles in the revolution that will eventually lead to full independence for Haiti and its people.

Both an emotionally palpable love story and a detail-rich historical novel, Sister Mother Warrior tells the often-overlooked history of the most successful Black uprising in history. Riley celebrates the tremendous courage and resilience of the revolutionaries, and the formidable strength and intelligence of Toya, Marie-Claire, and the countless other women who fought for freedom.

This wonderful novel tells the story of a very successful slave uprising. History often tells us of how men changed the course of events. In a refreshing viewpoint, readers are treated to a life-changing situation through the eyes of two women.

Gran Toya, a West African woman, was a warrior. Sadly, she was sold and became a slave. Marie-Claire was a free woman of color who had a good life. They were involved with Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Gran Toya as a mother figure, and Marie Claire as a wife. Dessalines was a former slave who became a general and led people to fight against slavery. Eventually the people of Haiti fought their colonizers and won, after decades.

The characters are layered and complex and often battle with difficult decisions. Their world is a challenge, and readers can see this through well-written words. Sights, scents, tastes, touch, and sounds come alive in this novel that depicts true events. The author fills in the blanks smoothly, making this an enjoyable story to read. The bonus is learning something about history. Readers will get much from reading this book.

Empty Vows by Mary Monroe


Empty Vows by Mary Monroe
The Wiggins Series, book 2
Publisher: Dafina
Genre: Historical, LGBTQ, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Forty-something widow Jessie Tucker is beloved throughout Lexington, Alabama, for her kind heart and endless generosity. But she feels it’s past time she rewarded herself—especially when upstanding Hubert Wiggins tragically loses his wife and son. Making herself indispensable, yet discouraged by Hubert’s lack of romantic interest, Jessie cooks up a deception she knows will make pious Hubert do right by her…

Hoax or not, Hubert couldn’t be happier. The passionate self he’s long hidden from everyone has a new, much-riskier secret love. And the unsuspecting second Mrs. Wiggins will help him maintain his ever-so-devout image in the community…

But when Hubert is not the ardent lover Jessie always dreamed he was, she turns her desires to handsome younger man Conway. Suddenly the “good church wife” can’t resist temptation at all. And someone is watching: Conway’s new girlfriend—and Jessie’s longtime rival—Blondeen. Now Blondeen has the perfect opportunity to harass Jessie, destroy her reputation, drive her out of town—then become the real wife Hubert should have had all along…

In one shattering night, Jessie, Blondeen, and Hubert will each go too far. And when their web of deceit threatens to drag them under for good, they will have only one chance to erase the past and claim everything they’ve ever wanted. If their secrets don’t destroy them first…

What lengths would someone go to hide their secrets?

I was excited to return back to Lexington, Alabama! Empty Vows picks up where Mrs. Wiggins left off. You’ll need to read book one to get Maggie’s story. Book two is told from Jessie and Hubert’s view. True to her writing style the author includes colorful characters, an enthralling storyline and engaging dialogue.

Grief stricken Hubert Wiggins has lost his wife and son and soon finds himself an available widow in the small town of Lexington, Alabama. Jessie, Maggie’s best friend wasn’t interested in Hubert until her meddling sister Minnie put the thought in her head. In book two we get a different version of Jessie. In book one she was dominated by her now deceased husband and appeared helpless. Now readers see a calculating scheming side of Jessie.

If you’ve read book one you know Hubert has no interest in any of the women that are throwing themselves at him. He is only needing to find someone to cover suspicions of his secret lifestyle. With that premise I was drawn into the deceit and lies. But who is fooling who? As the saying goes be careful what you wish for and who you listen to. The characters make vows that were completely empty and based on selfish gain. Will the marriage turn out as they envisioned? This is the 1930’s and to cover a story with so many themes such as LGBTQ lifestyle, a strict religious family, segregation and the mention of a serial killer on the loose I couldn’t read fast enough. The author did an awesome job in pulling all this together to create an absolutely riveting drama.

I enjoyed the first book better, however this is a very entertaining read. In my opinion Jessie and Hubert are not on Maggie’s level. Maggie took action to help others and to defend herself while Jessie and Hubert are taking action for their own selfish reasons. Maggie’s upbringing wasn’t the best so that led me to have compassion for her and it made her actions more acceptable. For Jessie and Hubert, I don’t feel the same compassion.

I enjoy reading about the history during this era and learning about the culture in the Black community. I can picture the meddlesome neighbors and the humorous conversations. Living in the South the foods that are mentioned are staples in many households still today. I guess that’s why I enjoy the author’s stories so much, I can relate to living in a small town in the South and I can visualize people I know acting out the scenes in the book.

I am definitely looking forward to book three in this series to see how the author will conclude The Wiggins series. This is a good series that is sure to entertain many readers.

Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Unlock My Heart by Jennifer Wilck


Unlock My Heart by Jennifer Wilck
Scarred Hearts, Book Two
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Abby Marlow, computer security expert, lands a job at the best IT security firm in the country. Her sole focus is financial independence so she never has to rely on others again, especially a man. But why does her boss make her wires short circuit?

Ted Endicott, CEO and founder of the IT security firm, is hard of hearing. Although an expert in his field, he’s still uncomfortable admitting his hearing problem to clients or employees. So why is he willing to accept Abby’s help?

As Ted and Abby work together, barriers fall away, and the lines blur between colleagues and lovers. But a security glitch in a client’s system shows one of Ted’s employees is the hacker, and all signs point to Abby. Can they get past the suspicion and find a future together?

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

The Marsh Bird by Anne Brooker James


The Marsh Bird by Anne Brooker James
Publisher: Koehlerbooks
Genre: Historical, Mainstream fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Woven with murder, mystery, and magic, The Marsh Bird is a compelling story of a young, orphaned, multiracial girl from Louisiana and a white teen abandoned as an infant and raised by a local white fisherman, both embraced by the residents of a rural, Gullah Geechee sea island community. Set among descendants of those once enslaved in the lush marshes of the Lowcountry coast of South Carolina and Georgia, this is an unforgettable love story, and a tale of survival that proves it is the bonds of love and care that create a family.

This is a stunning new novel that is filled with surprises and emotional ups and downs. The Gullah Geechee culture is presented in a sensitive way, and readers will sympathize with their struggles and the strength they show to deal with their challenging circumstances.

Their traditions are laced with spirituality, making them people with depth, and the author does well showing this. The relationships are realistic and draw out emotions.

To make the story even more intense, there is mystery and murder within these pages. Family and race are common themes that bring it all together beautifully. A love story spanning the growing years of the young protagonists is tender. Then the young man must go off to war. He does not realize that he becomes a father while he’s gone. Will his true love ever see him again?

If you enjoy reading about other cultures and times, this is a great book to check out. It was well done with memorable characters.

* How to Fake it in Hollywood by Ava Wilder


* How to Fake it in Hollywood by Ava Wilder
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Romance
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Grey Brooks is on a mission to keep her career afloat now that the end of her long-running teen TV show has her (unsuccessfully) pounding the pavement again. With a life-changing role on the line, she’s finally desperate enough to agree to her publicist’s scheme: fake a love affair with a disgraced Hollywood heartthrob who needs the publicity, but for very different reasons.

Ethan Atkins just wants to be left alone. Between his high-profile divorce, struggles with drinking, and grief over the death of his longtime creative partner and best friend, Ethan has slowly let himself fade into the background. But if he ever wants to produce the last movie he and his partner wrote together, Ethan needs to clean up his reputation and step back into the spotlight. A gossip-inducing affair with a gorgeous actress might be just the ticket, even if it’s the last thing he wants to do.

Though their juicy public relationship is less than perfect behind the scenes, it doesn’t take long before Grey and Ethan’s sizzling chemistry starts to feel like more than just an act. But after decades in a ruthless industry that requires bulletproof emotional armor to survive, are they too used to faking it to open themselves up to the real thing?

If you like Hollywood romance, don’t miss this one. This is Ava Wilder’s debut novel, and I was really impressed. I loved everything about this story and I devoured it from the first page. I have to admit, Hollywood stories are my weakness, so that is what drew me to this story. From the first page, I was transported into Ethan and Grey’s world and I fell in love with the story and the characters.

Ava Wilder takes the reader on an emotional journey through the ups and downs of trying to have a relationship in Hollywood. Ethan and Grey are two actors who need a career boost and agree to a fake relationship. Ethan was a huge star but has become a recluse in recent years and Grey was a child star and now wants to be taken seriously.

Ethan and Grey have tons of chemistry. Although they try to ignore the feelings they have for each other, until they can’t anymore. They have an easy banter and there is a lot of sexual tension between them. They are perfect together and they help each other become stronger and better.

Ethan has demons and he is just existing. He is a tortured emotional mess and he doesn’t know how to deal with his feelings. He has lost his direction in life. He feels hopeless and helpless, until Grey comes into his life. Grey is a breath of fresh air in Ethan’s reclusive life. She isn’t afraid to tell Ethan what is on her mind and I think that is what Ethan likes about her the most. That is, besides his crazy attraction to her. Grey slowly turns Ethan’s world bright again and I loved reading about it.

This is a fantastic book and it has all the elements I love. The characters are easy to connect with, it has great pacing, the story immediately captured my attention, I couldn’t put it down and I never wanted it to end. I can’t wait to find out what Ava Wilder will write next. I will be first in line to read it. Perfection.

A Woman of Endurance by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa


A Woman of Endurance by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa
Publisher: Amistad
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

A Woman of Endurance, set in nineteenth-century Puerto Rican plantation society, follows Pola, a deeply spiritual African woman who is captured and later sold for the purpose of breeding future slaves. The resulting babies are taken from her as soon as they are born. Pola loses the faith that has guided her and becomes embittered and defensive. The dehumanizing violence of her life almost destroys her. But this is not a novel of defeat but rather one of survival, regeneration, and reclamation of common humanity.

Readers are invited to join Pola in her journey to healing. From the sadistic barbarity of her first experiences, she moves on to receive compassion and support from a revitalizing new community. Along the way, she learns to recognize and embrace the many faces of love—a mother’s love, a daughter’s love, a sister’s love, a love of community, and the self-love that she must recover before she can offer herself to another. It is ultimately, a novel of the triumph of the human spirit even under the most brutal of conditions.

“When are you going to see that the only way we can carry our burdens is to share them?”

Pola, the woman once called Keera, has many reasons to be closed off emotionally, and definitely reason to be bitter and angry at everyone. In the beginning the author disclosed Lola’s broken spirit. The reader gets to see Lola at a point where she had given up and commits herself to the sea. The hurt and damage due to inhumane conditions and treatment, along with the deplorable brutality in the cold hearts of many men that surely can break a person physically, mentally and emotionally. I am glad that I kept reading and now understand that the details were important to knowing her full journey.

The author’s writing is impeccable. The content matter is one that can be hard to read but the author’s words were full of grace and shared so poetically. The untranslated Spanish phrases and words made me feel closer to the story. The purposeful word choice painted a picture that fit and flowed very well. Reading Pola’s story I felt an emotional pull. Reading about the social structure within slavery acknowledged that there’s some freedom only our mind can give us.

I loved seeing Pola’s strength and how the events became clearer and everything fell into place for her.

It has been a long journey, a journey that has taught Pola the greatest lesson of all, how to endure. What a treat for readers to see the damaged and broken Pola evolve to find security, to being loved and mostly she come to terms with those she lost or that were taken from her while on her journey.

Being enslaved it’s often that families are formed outside of blood ties. So this story is not only about Pola but those that accepted Pola, those that were patience while she healed. Those that offered her a family, and support , and that helped fill the emptiness that use to consume her. Pola has dwelt in the darkness for long enough and now she only needs to make a little space for others to enter and grow.

My takeaway from this book is we can get stuck in grief and loss, we have to face and address our hurts and we need the community of others to survive. This story is well worth reading.