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.

Junk Magic and Guitar Dreams by T. James Logan


Junk Magic and Guitar Dreams by T. James Logan
Publisher: Bear Paw Publishing
Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

A guitar, a box of junk, and a pile of trouble…

Fifteen-year-old Otter is in a dark place.

Child Services wants to put him in foster care, or even a home for troubled youth.

Living on his own, he’s one bad decision away from the street. His band’s first gig is only two weeks away, but his crush on their new lead singer has him tied in knots.

Then he inherits a box of random junk from a dead grandfather he barely knew, only to discover that the junk is infused with his grandfather’s memories. Can this “junk” help Otter win the girl of his dreams, reconnect with his family, and keep him out of juvenile detention…maybe even become a rock star?

You’ll love this touching, contemporary fantasy because it will play power chords on your heart strings.

Get it now.

Otter is a kid just orphaned and emancipated at the age of fifteen. He lives in a trailer park and helped his mother as she was dying of cancer. Now he must take care of himself. A woman from child services wants to put him in foster care, but Otter is dead set against this. He wants to take care of himself. He gets a job and misses school.

He has some things in his favor though: some good friends and neighbors and music. He plays bass guitar in a band, and music is a driving force for him. His grandfather leaves him an interesting box of junk, but it’s not just any junk. While going through it, Otter relieves the memories of his grandfather. He comes to understand him and learns some important things. This is an interesting aspect of the story, to see how Otter uses this knowledge in his life.

Otter has a nefarious neighbor, and in dealing with him, one sees how naïve Otter really is. He gets sucked into some bad things without realizing the truth, and this escalates. His best friend warns him, but he blows off the advice. Things get worse when someone steals his bass guitar when his band has an important gig coming up. Otter is already living on starvation wages. Then when Otter is with this troubled neighbor, the neighbor and his cohorts do something terrible in Otter’s presence. What will Otter do? If he calls the police, his life could be in danger, but he wants to do the right thing. This truly is a dark hour for him.

The story is underlined with his romantic interest, friendship, and other themes of family, racism, poverty, dreams, music, immigration, and other important issues. The characters are realistic, and one’s heart will surely be moved by the circumstances the kids find themselves in. The music aspects are done well. Vintage music comes to life here, and the descriptions of musicianship are perfect.

For an entertaining YA story with some depth, why not give this one a try?

The ’86 Fix: A 1980s Time Travel Novel by Keith A. Pearson


The ’86 Fix: A 1980s Time Travel Novel by Keith A. Pearson
Publisher: Inchgate Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Imagine if you could travel back in time and relive one weekend as your teenage self — would you change anything?

On the way home from school in 1986, Craig Pelling decided to buy a can of Coke. He wasn’t to know a seemingly innocuous visit to the local newsagent would dramatically change the course of his life.

Fast forward to his forties, Craig finds himself trapped in a loveless marriage, earning a living in a dead-end job as the manager of an electrical store. He could have been so much more, achieved so much more.

However, fate hasn’t finished with Craig Pelling yet.

A school reunion proves to be the catalyst for chaos, and decades on from his visit to that newsagent, Craig’s mundane life is turned upside down as his past comes back to haunt him.

As he plummets towards rock-bottom, all seems lost for Craig until he’s thrown a lifeline — the miraculous lifeline of a brief trip back in time to 1986.

Will he be able to fix his life? Is it as simple as just reverting one decision he made over thirty years ago?

Craig is about to find out.

Imagine making an important decision in your teens that left your life a wreck by the time you were in your forties. Now imagine that you could go back to that particular day in your youth and reverse what you did. Craig Pelling did that in this sci-fi time-travel novel.

Craig returns to his present, and things are different. There are some positive changes, but some things went really wrong. Craig searches for a way to set things back to his original difficult life. Why would he do this, and if he succeeds, but then?

This is an interesting take on the genre and somewhat unpredictable. The protagonist is well-developed, and the secondary characters enough to fill out the storyline. Parts of it are funny, and parts make a reader think about humans and their situations.

The story comes in two installments, where the second book picks up where the first one ends. For an entertaining vintage eighties sci-fi, time-travel story, why not give this one a try?

The Rule of Three by E.G. Scott


The Rule of Three by E.G. Scott
Publisher: Dutton
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Once a week, three women get together for book club in Kingsland, a private, gated community full of neighbors looking to do their business away from prying eyes. On the same night, their husbands meet up to play poker, where much more is being planned than anyone could guess.

But on this particular night, something goes terribly wrong. When all three men end up dead or hospitalized, and the entire town is being questioned, no one seems to be able to answer the only question that really needs asking: What the hell happened?

This is a riveting story, not just of powerful women or vengeful men, but of secrets, neighbors, blackmail, business gone wrong, and the most intimate of desires spilling into full view.

The novel starts right into the exciting action with a triple murder/attempt and three grieving wives. Who could have done such a thing? Two sisters and a friend are investigated along with some obvious suspects. The story delves deeper into some shady dealings with the husbands.

Interesting secondary characters round out the scenes, and they are easy to picture. Suspense builds as the mystery deepens. The setting is presented well, so readers can picture enough details to fill things out.

As things roll along, it will be tricky for readers to guess who the guilty party is. There are twists in this book, and the surprises add to the intrigue.

For those who love murder mysteries, this one is worth checking out.

The Coffee Lover’s Diet: Change Your Coffee, Change Your Life by Bob Arnot, M.D.


The Coffee Lover’s Diet: Change Your Coffee, Change Your Life by Bob Arnot, M.D.
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Improve your brain. Extend your life. Enhance your health. Discover the power of Polyphenols. Drop those extra pounds.

Dr. Bob Arnot, the bestselling author of The Aztec Diet, shows you how to use the power of America’s favorite drink—coffee—to achieve improved health, longevity, mental clarity and weight loss in this unique, groundbreaking wellness guide.

For years, we’ve been told that coffee was bad for our health. But new research reveals that, consumed properly, coffee can be the healthiest, tastiest part of your day. It can sharpen your focus, jumpstart your workout, help you lose weight, and even help fend off disease, from diabetes and liver disease to heart disease and Parkinson’s.

In this revolutionary handbook, Dr. Bob Arnot explains how coffee became a staple of the human diet, and reveals why having a cup is the best thing you can do each day. He also teaches you how to find the best beans from around the world and how to create the best brew and food pairings. The Coffee Lover’s Diet includes a full diet plan with corresponding recipes to ensure you get the full benefits of this miracle bean—in the right amounts and in a variety of ways—as well as tips for putting all of this invaluable information and advice to work to help you shed pounds, gain energy, and make the healthiest choices every day.

What if you discovered that one of your favorite drinks–coffee–could actually be good for you? Would this be inspiring? Dr. Bob Arnot has traveled the world in search of the best coffees. He has looked for not only quality, including excellent taste, but for other benefits as well.

Coffee is not all equal. Some is actually quite good for you. Arnot explains and gives evidence that one can enjoy a great-tasting coffee while also receiving health benefits. He talks of his experiences on coffee farms and in labs and offers plenty of charts with ratings. He discusses coffee equipment and water as well.

The book is entertaining and fun to read. As a bonus, the doctor gives readers plenty of delicious-sounding coffee-related recipes. Included are calorie counts. For those who want to take off a little weight, or even if not, this is a great book to check about and learn some surprising things about coffee.

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.

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.

Wish List by Amanda Pampuro


Wish List by Amanda Pampuro
Publisher: Alien Buddha Press
Genre: Contemporary, Science Fiction, Horror
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

You’re talking with a friend, face to face, smartphone stashed safely in a pocket. You mention a trendy restaurant, a dream vacation, some hot piece of new tech. The next time you go online, you’re hit with ads for all three of those things. You’re amused, bemused, unsettled all at once. Amanda Pampuro taps into that feeling in Wish List, narrated by an earnest, efficient AI hive mind striving to bring happiness to account holder ARgurl16 – one “Complete My Purchase” click at a time. It’s a sweet and creepy little tale – sweet because Pampuro deftly sketches ARgurl16’s ups, downs, loves and hopes through the lens of her buying history, creepy because Wish List makes it clear that computers aren’t the only things being programmed.

For a disturbing little read, Wish List meets expectations. The book is clever and fast-paced. It tells the story from the point-of-view of technology tracking the life story of a woman from her childhood to her death.

The technological protagonist is so honest, and this comes across as so authentic that readers are likely to watch what they do online more carefully. The reader learns about the human protagonist through her online purchases. Assumptions are made as “the next good buy” is constantly pushed on her.

The suspense is well-done, too, because there are hints of the young lady’s death throughout, but mostly right after she makes a specific purchase. What is going to happen to her? Why does she die after buying the specific item?

It’s also clever that her husband and child are brought into the scene based on more online purchases.

This book will make you think. It’s a quick and easy read worth a look.

The Unseen Body by Jonathan Reisman, M.D.


The Unseen Body by Jonathan Reisman, M.D.
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

In this fascinating journey through the human body and across the globe, Dr. Reisman weaves together stories about our insides with a unique perspective on life, culture, and the natural world.

Jonathan Reisman, M.D.―a physician, adventure traveler and naturalist―brings readers on an odyssey navigating our insides like an explorer discovering a new world with The Unseen Body. With unique insight, Reisman shows us how understanding mountain watersheds helps to diagnose heart attacks, how the body is made mostly of mucus, not water, and how urine carries within it a tale of humanity’s origins.

Through his offbeat adventures in healthcare and travel, Reisman discovers new perspectives on the body: a trip to the Alaskan Arctic reveals that fat is not the enemy, but the hero; a stint in the Himalayas uncovers the boundary where the brain ends and the mind begins; and eating a sheep’s head in Iceland offers a lesson in empathy. By relating rich experiences in far-flung lands and among unique cultures back to the body’s inner workings, he shows how our organs live inextricably intertwined lives―an internal ecosystem reflecting the natural world around us.

Reisman offers a new and deeply moving perspective, and helps us make sense of our bodies and how they work in a way readers have never before imagined.

Books written by doctors about their jobs are interesting, but Dr. Reisman has a different take on things. He is a world traveler and has seen some wild things. When he relates these episodes to medicine, and specifically the human body, readers are treated to entertaining educational tidbits.

This book is written like an adventure and is quite creative. The doctor meets many people and gives the human touch to his experiences. People teach him, long after he graduates from medical school. His outside interests also come into play.

Dr. Reisman adds humor to his observations at times and some profound insights. He relates bodily fluids to other things in a way that makes sense. This is a great book that is easy to get through.

The Price of Time by Tim Tigner


The Price of Time by Tim Tigner
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

There’s a secret in Silicon Valley. A discovery. An invention. One so startling and surprisingly sinister that it needs to be concealed—at any price.

Tim Tigner takes a step back from his bestselling Kyle Achilles series to introduce Zachary Chase and Skylar Fawkes in a fresh standalone novel that’s bound to keep you glued and guessing. With secluded meetings, sudden disappearances and strange murders; secret agents, skillful assassins and sexy locations; The Price of Time is packed with fast-paced action and first-class intellectual intrigue.

Propelling the thrills and perched at the middle of the mystery is one of humanity’s great questions: Would finding the Fountain of Youth be a blessing?

Prepare for sleep-deprived nights and skipped chores while repeating the phrase: “Just one more page.”

Would you like immortality? This novel by Tim Tigner explores this idea. Sounds great—but is it really? A small group of scientists and business people have found the secret to stopping aging, but they can die from ways other than old age.

The “Immortals” must come up with a way to change their identities after every twenty years because they cannot explain their not aging. How to do this? They cross a moral line, and it comes with a cost. Reading about their debates on how to solve this problem and others is fascinating and brings human nature to attention.

There is a mystery here as well. Someone is murdering the immortals, but why? At the same time, a former CIA agent rescues a woman from the dark plans of the immortals. They work together to try to find these people and get answers. These two storylines work together to make great suspense. There are surprises in this book, and readers are unlikely to guess the ending. The characters are well-drawn.

This is a unique story that is worth a reader’s time. I’ll be looking for more from this talented author.