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.

Blood Will Tell by Heather Chavez


Blood Will Tell by Heather Chavez
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Schoolteacher and single mom Frankie Barrera has always been fiercely protective of her younger sister Izzy—whether Izzy wants her to be or not. But over the years, Izzy’s risky choices have tested Frankie’s loyalty. Never so much as on a night five years ago, when a frantic phone call led Frankie to the scene of a car accident—and a drunk and disoriented Izzy who couldn’t remember a thing.

Though six friends partied on the outskirts of town that night, one girl was never seen again . . .

Now, an AMBER alert puts Frankie in the sights of the local police. Her truck has been described as the one used in the abduction of a girl from a neighboring town. And the only other person with access to Frankie’s truck is Izzy.

This time around, Frankie will have to decide what lengths she’s willing to go to in order to protect Izzy—what lies she’s willing to tell, and what secrets she’s willing to keep—because the dangerous game that six friends once played on a warm summer night isn’t over yet . . .

I liked this book, I really did.

The short chapters are mainly told from Frankie (Francisca) Barrera’s point of view. There’s suspense and secrets. When drugs and alcohol are involved, it’s bound to impair one’s memory, right? There’s a very strong family support system. I enjoyed the author’s writing style which made for an easy read. There were several plot twists that I didn’t see coming. The dual timeline that explained just enough of what happened the night Rachel went missing to keep me interested. The story had a good ending that explained everything.

I can say that Frankie is a compassionate, and unselfish woman with more than expected mechanical skills. I’d say she’s also courageous, but I don’t necessarily see her as a strong woman that I can relate to. Frankie and her younger sister Izzy come from a two-parent home that seemingly had a happy environment, conducive to a favorable upbringing. I truly understand the need for Frankie to help her younger sister and the desire to protect her. However, Frankie’s overbearing investigative sister skills overshadow Izzy and enables her.

An AMBER alert puts Frankie in a questionable position with the local police. Her truck has been described as the one used in the abduction of Marina Wagner, and the only other person with access to Frankie’s truck is her sister, Izzy. Frankie is a middle school teacher, and since it’s summer I guess she has time to clear her and her sister’s name. As Frankie investigates Marina’s kidnapping, she also gets closer to finding out what happened five years ago when Rachel disappeared. Parts of the story were bogged down and almost made it difficult to stick with. Izzy seemed to be a spoiled woman child who was confident in her sister’s loyalty to her. Maybe I overlooked it, but I don’t recall what Izzy did for a living.

There are several things that I didn’t like about the story–things that I noticed and tried to tune out so that I could focus on the main parts. Marina went to grief camp at the age of 12, when her sister went missing. Her sister was recently found, Marina is now 17. I found the relationship between Marina and her mother strange, and to send her daughter to grief camp when there was no proof her older daughter was deceased. Lastly, the local police or FBI did little investigating into Marina’s kidnapping, but Frankie found two people and solved the case in a week.

Three hundred pages in Izzy finds her voice and tells Frankie that she’s been taking responsibility by volunteering, getting a job, her own place and she even went to talk to the police and yet Frankie still treats her as a child. In my opinion, this sister duo definitely is dysfunctional and should seek counseling. Frankie needs to get a life and apply with the local police force as a detective. As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, I think after the heart pounding action scene and big reveal at the end, the sisters may have stumbled their way towards an evolving adult relationship.

Even though I had some minor issues with the story, overall it was a good and entertaining read for me. I would definitely read more from this author because I do like her talent for telling a story and not only that, this was a creative plot with many unforeseen twists.

The Boys by Ron Howard & Clint Howard


The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family by Ron Howard & Clint Howard
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction, Memoir
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Happy Days, The Andy Griffith Show, Gentle Ben—these shows captivated millions of TV viewers in the ’60s and ’70s. Join award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard and audience-favorite actor Clint Howard as they frankly and fondly share their unusual family story of navigating and surviving life as sibling child actors.

“What was it like to grow up on TV?” Ron Howard has been asked this question throughout his adult life. in The Boys, he and his younger brother, Clint, examine their childhoods in detail for the first time. For Ron, playing Opie on The Andy Griffith Show and Richie Cunningham on Happy Days offered fame, joy, and opportunity—but also invited stress and bullying. For Clint, a fast start on such programs as Gentle Ben and Star Trek petered out in adolescence, with some tough consequences and lessons.

With the perspective of time and success—Ron as a filmmaker, producer, and Hollywood A-lister, Clint as a busy character actor—the Howard brothers delve deep into an upbringing that seemed normal to them yet was anything but. Their Midwestern parents, Rance and Jean, moved to California to pursue their own showbiz dreams. But it was their young sons who found steady employment as actors. Rance put aside his ego and ambition to become Ron and Clint’s teacher, sage, and moral compass. Jean became their loving protector—sometimes over-protector—from the snares and traps of Hollywood.

By turns confessional, nostalgic, heartwarming, and harrowing, THE BOYS is a dual narrative that lifts the lid on the Howard brothers’ closely held lives. It’s the journey of a tight four-person family unit that held fast in an unforgiving business and of two brothers who survived “child-actor syndrome” to become fulfilled adults.

Two brothers, one journey few can understand and a lifetime of memories.

I love to read biographies and autobiographies. When I saw this one about little Ronny Howard, I had to read it. I’m glad I did. There’s a whole lot more to Ron Howard than you might think. First, he’s not only a gifted filmmaker, but also a gifted writer. This was like reading a conversation between friends. Truly. His brother, Clint, writes half of this book and he’s more complicated than I ever thought.

Ron Howard is more than just Opie from the Andy Griffith show. I had no idea how hard worked to get ready for that part and how he had to work to BE Opie. I had no idea he had no concept of how to sign autographs while playing the role of Opie. He didn’t have the easiest life and it’s interesting to read about his transition from Opie to Ritchie Cunningham on Happy Days, then his move to directing. I liked how he’s so honest in his retelling of this era and his tendency to wish his father had his success, rather than having it for himself. It shows his humbleness.

Then there’s Clint. I knew this was his brother, but I didn’t know much about him. This book obviously changed that. He didn’t have quite the same experiences as Ron, even though he grew up in the same household. That’s not to say he wasn’t treated well. He was, but he had different experiences. There’s the unfortunate incidence with the buzzard during the filming of The Red Pony. If you’re upset by indignities to animals, then this might be the portion to skip. I never realized he had such drug problems or had become such a character actor. I have a new respect for Clint Howard.

All in all, this is a wonderful Hollywood autobiography and one that shouldn’t be missed. Recommended.

As the Wicked Watch by Tamron Hall


As the Wicked Watch by Tamron Hall
Jordan Manning series Book 1
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

When crime reporter Jordan Manning leaves her hometown in Texas to take a job at a television station in Chicago, she’s one step closer to her dream: a coveted anchor chair on a national network.

Jordan is smart and aggressive, with unabashed star-power, and often the only woman of color in the newsroom. Her signature? Arriving first on the scene—in impractical designer stilettos. Armed with a master’s degree in forensic science and impeccable instincts, Jordan has been able to balance her dueling motivations: breaking every big story—and giving a voice to the voiceless.

From her time in Texas, she’s covered the vilest of human behaviors but nothing has prepared her for Chicago. Jordan is that rare breed of a journalist who can navigate a crime scene as well as she can a newsroom—often noticing what others tend to miss. Again and again, she is called to cover the murders of Black women, many of them sexually assaulted, most brutalized, and all of them quickly forgotten.

All until Masey James—the story that Jordan just can’t shake, despite all efforts. A 15-year-old girl whose body was found in an abandoned lot, Masey has come to represent for Jordan all of the frustration and anger that her job often forces her to repress. Putting the rest of her work and her fraying personal life aside, Jordan does everything she can to give the story the coverage it desperately requires, and that a missing Black child would so rarely get.

There’s a serial killer on the loose, Jordan believes, and he’s hiding in plain sight.

The story follows Texas native Jordan Manning. Jordan’s an ambitious TV journalist who is compassionate, driven and determined to help solve the murder of Massy James. Sadly, the story of Masey Jones, a black teenager who has been missing for a few weeks is the focus story for Jordan.

I enjoyed the crime mystery mixed with journalism. I liked seeing behind the scenes as the story follows Jordan’s investigative journalism. She is set on exposing the injustice for victims as well as for the black community. Many times, she is so focused on getting the story that she forgoes eating.

A few things that I didn’t like about the writing is the very detailed backstory for each character mentioned. There were times in the book that were over detailed on unimportant situations and characters. Jordan has a lot of friends and in their introductions the story goes on long-winded tangents which overwhelmed the storyline with details that were not needed.

I admired Jordan’s strength, creative tactics and realness. She has a great and close relationship with her mother. She has a good circle of sister friends and reliable work associates. She is single but well aware that her lifestyle isn’t conducive to maintaining a healthy relationship. A late suggestion, if this is going to be a series saving some of the details of her friendships and her relationship with Thomas for a later book might have been well advised. This first book revealed everything about Jordan. As a reader I would have liked for the first book to focus on the storyline and provide some details about Jordan but leave a little mystery about her that’ll make me want to read the next installment of the series.

Jordan has a sense that something more is going on than anyone else realized. Another characteristic that I liked about Jordan is that she is willing to put herself where needed and she’s open to asking the hard questions to get the details of the story to the public. I was impressed with Jordan’s unique qualifications in having a degree in forensic science but at times she seems to cross the line in doing a detective’s job. This led me to believe that no one on the police force is capable of solving the case. Originally, the police wrote Masey off as a runaway. As the story intensifies the police are now under pressure to solve the case which leads to a questionable arrest per Jordan.

I admit, I lost interest as the story went along. It started to dwindle after the questionable arrest. There were so many people being introduced that it was confusing, and I didn’t care who the killer was, I just wanted to be finished because I knew probably wouldn’t remember them in the crowd. There may be some emotional triggers for some readers as this story does center around a missing 15-year-old girl (not disclosing specific triggers due to spoiler for potential readers), along with the mistreatment of the falsely accused.

Overall, I enjoyed the storyline despite the drawbacks stated previously. This was still an entertaining read and I enjoyed watching Jordan as she went from scene to scene, following sources as she gathered details on the story while the wicked watched.

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan, Eilidh Beaton (Narrator)


The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan, Eilidh Beaton (Narrator)
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks, HarperAudio (Publisher)
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

A grand baronial house on Loch Ness, a quirky small-town bookseller, and a single mom looking for a fresh start all come together in this witty and warm-hearted novel by New York Times bestselling author Jenny Colgan.

Desperate to escape from London, single mother Zoe wants to build a new life for herself and her four year old son Hari. She can barely afford the crammed studio apartment on a busy street where shouting football fans keep them awake all night. Hari’s dad, Jaz, a charismatic but perpetually broke DJ, is no help at all. But his sister Surinder comes to Zoe’s aid, hooking her up with a job as far away from the urban crush as possible: a bookshop on the banks of Loch Ness. And there’s a second job to cover housing: Zoe will be an au pair for three children at a genuine castle in the Scottish Highlands.

But while Scotland is everything Zoe dreamed of—clear skies, brisk fresh air, blessed quiet—everything else is a bit of a mess. The Urquart family castle is grand, but crumbling, the childrens’ single dad is a wreck, and the kids have been kicked out of school and left to their own devices. Zoe has her work cut out for her, and is determined to rise to the challenge, especially when she sees how happily Hari has taken to their new home.

With the help of Nina, the friendly local bookseller, Zoe begins to put down roots in the community. Are books, fresh air, and kindness enough to heal this broken family—and her own…?

I honestly don’t know where to start, what to share and how to avoid spoilers. To say this is a busy story is putting it mildly. My mind is blown, my emotions and feelings are all over the place because there are so many reasons to smile, cry, worry and grin. There are parts where I could feel my eyes widen, my jaw drop and my breath stall in my lungs from suspense. There are so many details to all the personalities that star in this novel. The fact that I spent 11 hours listening over two and a half days, at work, late at night, right after breakfast, basically every chance I got tells you how involved I was in the story of Zoe and her little son, Hari. I didn’t know what to expect when I took a chance on this book. I’d never heard of the author before and that’s my loss. I am wowed by this novel.

The narrator has a voice I had to get used to. I did though and now I’ve come to believe that Ms. Beaton’s voice is absolutely perfect for the characters of Ms. Colgan’s characters, especially Zoe, the heroine, and Ramsey’s son, Patrick. The narrator has some other gems throughout but I’ll let readers, if they listen to the book, discover that charming point for themselves.

Here’s the problem with listening to a book instead of reading – I have no idea how to spell some of the names and I don’t want to get it wrong so I’m going to have to describe people through their roles or some such. Bear with me. Patrick is Ramsey’s youngest, Mary is the second oldest and the eldest son has a name I would probably spell wrong. Out of all the hero’s kids, I think Patrick is the most adorable, outgoing and just plain cute. His relationship and effect on Hari is one of the strong elements in the book and one of my favorites. The two were thick as thieves and a delight to read about. I believe Ms. Beaton’s narration was spot on for those two.

Mary’s character is a hard one. That child has issues – serious issues that caused me heartache on her behalf, and is involved in the few scenes that affected my emotions the most. Zoe’s influence is one of the paramount reasons that what happens to Mary is so powerful and important.

Ramsey’s eldest son isn’t quite as prominent as the other two, but Zoe’s gentle guidance took this sullen, internet-gaming young man and turned him into a person with confidence, goals and helped him discover a grand new passion through which he experiences success, joy and a possible path to a career. I liked that.

I think I’m writing this backwards. Zoe is the main character, a single mom of Hari, and Hari can’t speak yet. He’s 4 years old and hasn’t made a peep. Zoe’s love for him comes through loud and clear. He lucked out when he got Zoe for his mom. His dad, Jaz, not so much. Oh, he loves the little tyke, but … there’s a reason Zoe and he never got married. And yet, I didn’t dislike Jaz. He’s irresponsible, yes, but he truly loves his son and I consider that a redeeming quality.

When I first meet Zoe, the author paints a very scary picture. The heroine is in dire straits and things don’t look good. She gets a helping hand from Jaz’s sister and that’s how the whole story in Scotland starts up. True, when I first started listening to the story, I got a little confused about who was who in which chapter, but that confusion didn’t last long. There is a significant reason the author wants readers to meet certain players early on. Readers need to understand what is going on in Zoe’s life, why she takes the jobs that were offered sight unseen and they need to meet the people that mattered in that stage of her life. Here’s another unusual aspect of the book – it has four parts and each part has a ton of chapters. It’s like the author tells Zoe’s and Hari’s story in stages – as a crisis point or major plot twist puts the heroine on a new path, each path becomes a section of her life and that’s why I think the novel is formatted in this manner. It is different, that’s for sure.

When I listed the genre as contemporary fiction, I did not add romance to the list. There are romantic elements, yes, but the book doesn’t really focus on a romance between Ramsey and Zoe. That just happens as Zoe’s influence heals everyone in the house, and that includes the housekeeper. It was nice to see it happen but the focus, the whole story is about Zoe dealing with the hand life has dealt her. It’s showing a reader how she herself heals while she patiently works with all of the hero’s children, meeting each challenge as they come, with compassion, firmness, stubbornness, a gentle grace and love. However, Zoe’s interactions with adults prove to be a bit more challenging. The dialogue comes in fits and starts because she initially is extremely nervous, downtrodden and at the lowest point in her life. That’s at the beginning. By the end of the book, Zoe has come into her own, and she’s a woman a reader can cheer for, care about and be happy for. This novel is basically her journey towards being the strong, confident, and beloved woman she becomes.

Oh my goodness, there is so much more I want to say, to share, to really impress upon readers of this review that The Bookshop on the Shore is worth reading. I mean it. It’s not a fluff read because the author also tackles some hard topics, like what happens to a child that is emotionally traumatized and does things to harm themselves or others. It’s handled with competence, respect and love. Then there is the truth about what really happened to Ramsey’s wife. The townsfolk bandy about lots of rumors and conjectures but don’t believe any of them. The truth is a lot more tragic than any could guess. Yet, it also opened my eyes to what a wonderful person Ramsey is, in his own quiet, few-worded way.

I’ll stop here. I mean, I didn’t even get to mention the evil chicken, the possible sighting of Nessie, what triggered Nina’s contractions to go from 0 to 60, the storm, what happens with the books – see what I mean? This novel is amazing – it’s like a whole world and I felt like I was living it with Zoe. I don’t know if it’s because of the skill and talent of the narrator bringing Ms. Colgan’s words to life or what, but if readers haven’t discovered this heartwarming tale, and are fans of stories that engage a reader on a deeper level, then this book is a must read. Oh, and the HEA is as unusual as Zoe’s life. I couldn’t figure out if it was really a happy ever after or a happily for now. I guess you’ll have to read it and decide for yourself. It does satisfy though because it wraps up with a surprising twist that bodes well for all the people I’ve come to care about.

Nothing General About It by Maurice Benard


Nothing General About It: How Love (and Lithium) Saved Me On and Off General Hospital by Maurice Benard
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Memoir, Non-Fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Maurice Benard has been blessed with family, fame, and a successful career. For twenty-five years, he has played one of the most well-known characters on daytime television: General Hospital’s Michael “Sonny” Corinthos, Jr. In his life outside the screen, he is a loving husband and the father of four. But his path has not been without hardship. When he was only twenty, Maurice was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

In Nothing General About It, Maurice looks back to his youth in a small town and his tenuous relationship with his father. He describes how his bipolar disorder began to surface in childhood, how he struggled to understand the jolting mood swings he experienced, and how a doctor finally saved his life. For years Maurice was relentless in his goal to be a successful actor. But even after he “made it,” he still grappled with terrifying lows, breakdowns, and setbacks, all while trying desperately to maintain his relationship with his wife, who endured his violent, unpredictable episodes. Maurice holds nothing back as he bravely talks about what it was like to be medicated and institutionalized, and of how he learned to manage his manic episodes while on the set of GH.

This naturally peaked the curiosity of many women who wondered whether or not it can cause harm and any woman who is considering a “top to bottom” overhaul for every member or those who are managing chronic illness will likely need to make some adjustments to the spine and extremities, heat and ice therapy, low-level laser therapy, electrotherapy, acupuncture, massage, temporary bracing, and home strengthening exercise therapy. look at this site cialis prescription online Depression prevents you generico levitra on line from being proactive about your condition, doing things you know you should be to overcome anxiety. There are millions of men who are benefited from penegra pill. http://appalachianmagazine.com/2017/10/24/virginians-can-expect-to-see-more-roundabouts-in-future/ viagra price This discount cialis pill disorder is faced only by men around. Nothing General About It is also an incredible love story about an enduring marriage that demonstrates what those vows—for better, for worse, in sickness and in health—truly mean. Maurice also pays tribute to the community that has been there for him through thick and thin, and ruminates on the importance of both inherited and created family.

A shocking, riveting, and utterly candid memoir of love, adversity, and ultimately hope, Nothing General About It offers insights and advice for everyone trying to cope with mental illness, and is a motivational story that offers lessons in perseverance—of the importance of believing in and fighting for yourself through the darkest times.

A man fighting his demons and so much more.

I’ve loved watching General Hospital for ages. I remember the old storylines and the intrigue…plus the hot scenes. I remember well when Maurice Benard showed up on the scene as Sonny Corinthos. I’ll never forget the scene where Sonny and Brenda are on the plane together and the chemistry leapt off the screen. Watching that was part of the reason I picked up this book.

Maurice Benard is a complicated man and it shows on every page. It’s like reading a story by an old friend. It’s easy to follow, plain speaking and written from the heart. I liked how the author peppered in stories from the show. Benard writes well and I couldn’t stop reading. It was heartening to read a story about someone who admits to their demons and how they’re dealing with them. He’s bipolar and needed lithium to control it. He’s blunt about his struggles and how he’s dealing. It gives hope to those who have such issues and shows you can be yourself while being true to yourself.

If you’re a fan of General Hospital, Sonny Corinthos or just want to read a great book about someone with human issues and how they’ve learned to deal, then this might be for you.

The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard


The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Recent Historical Fiction
Length: Full Length (363 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In November 1944, eighteen-year-old June Walker boards an unmarked bus, destined for a city that doesn’t officially exist. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has sprung up in a matter of months—a town of trailers and segregated houses, 24-hour cafeterias, and constant security checks. There, June joins hundreds of other young girls operating massive machines whose purpose is never explained. They know they are helping to win the war, but must ask no questions and reveal nothing to outsiders.

The girls spend their evenings socializing and flirting with soldiers, scientists, and workmen at dances and movies, bowling alleys and canteens. June longs to know more about their top-secret assignment and begins an affair with Sam Cantor, the young Jewish physicist from New York who oversees the lab where she works and understands the end goal only too well, while her beautiful roommate Cici is on her own mission: to find a wealthy husband and escape her sharecropper roots. Across town, African-American construction worker Joe Brewer knows nothing of the government’s plans, only that his new job pays enough to make it worth leaving his family behind, at least for now. But a breach in security will intertwine his fate with June’s search for answers.
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When the bombing of Hiroshima brings the truth about Oak Ridge into devastating focus, June must confront her ideals about loyalty, patriotism, and war itself.

A different look at the way things were in Oak Ridge.

I picked this book up because it’s on the list of books we’re considering reading for the local reading group. I’d read The Girls of Atomic City and enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to this take on Oak Ridge. I’m glad I picked up this book. Really. I have some quibbles with it, but it’s a quick read and an interesting point of view on life at Oak Ridge.

One of my quibbles is with the characters. I didn’t really root for any of them. I didn’t see any of them–save for a secondary one–as someone I’d like to have for a friend. I did get emotionally involved in the story, so that’s going for the book. I wanted to clunk a couple of the characters on the head. But the thing is, some of the characters were rather immature. I get they were young when they arrived at Oak Ridge, the naivete, and in some ways negativity, made me want to skip pages.

Still, this is an interesting take on what the people went through in Oak Ridge. Racial bias, loose-lips-sink-ships, being wary of everyone…it’s vividly told.

If you’re looking for a book that’s different and involves the work at Oak Ridge, then this might be the book for you.

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb


Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (355 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Set in the 1950s against the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s whirlwind romance and unforgettable wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco, New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb take the reader on an evocative sun-drenched journey along the Côte d’Azur in this page-turning novel of passion, fate and second chances…

Movie stars and paparazzi flock to Cannes for the glamorous film festival, but Grace Kelly, the biggest star of all, wants only to escape from the flash-bulbs. When struggling perfumer Sophie Duval shelters Miss Kelly in her boutique to fend off a persistent British press photographer, James Henderson, a bond is forged between the two women and sets in motion a chain of events that stretches across thirty years of friendship, love, and tragedy.

James Henderson cannot forget his brief encounter with Sophie Duval. Despite his guilt at being away from his daughter, he takes an assignment to cover the wedding of the century, sailing with Grace Kelly’s wedding party on the SS Constitution from New York. In Monaco, as wedding fever soars and passions and tempers escalate, James and Sophie—like Princess Grace—must ultimately decide what they are prepared to give up for love.

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This is a sweet romance set in Monaco, during the whirlwind courtship of Princess Grace and Prince Ranier. The author had me at the prince and princess. But once I got into the story, I couldn’t put it down. I liked the characters and the story. Talk about getting swept away.

Sophie is an independent girl. She isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and also not afraid to fall in love. I liked how she didn’t just fall for James. She made him work for it. That’s wonderful. She’s very contemporary in a time where women weren’t as forthright. So it was refreshing to read her story.

James… I liked how he was drawn to Sophie. I like when the hero can stand up to and beside the heroine. I also liked how he was so smitten with her. He and Sophie are a good couple and I rooted for them.

I also liked how the story of Grace and Rainier were woven in. I felt like I was right there in Cannes and along on the junket with them. It’s a fanciful story.

If you want something that’s got a lot to make you think about, then this might not be the book you want. It’s not heavy. For me, that was perfect. I wanted a breezy read. I got it.

If you want a book that’s sweet, has a satisfying ending and will leave you wanting a bit more, then this is the beach read you need.

The Lemon Sisters by Jill Shalvis


The Lemon Sisters by Jill Shalvis
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full length (400 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Brooke Lemon has always led the life she wanted, wild adventures—and mistakes—included, something her perfect sister, Mindy, never understood. So when Mindy shows up on Brooke’s doorstep in the throes of a break-down with her three little kids in tow, Brooke’s shocked.

Wanting to make amends, Brooke agrees to trade places, taking the kids back to Wildstone for a few days so Mindy can pick up the pieces and put herself back together. What Brooke doesn’t admit is she’s just as broken . . . Also how does one go home after seven years away? It doesn’t take long for Brooke to come face-to-face with her past, in the form of one tall, dark, sexy mistake. But Garrett’s no longer interested. Only his words don’t match his actions, leaving Brooke feeling things she’d shoved deep.

Soon the sisters begin to wonder: Are they lemons in life? In love? All they know is that neither seems to be able to run far enough to outpace her demons. And when secrets surface, they’ll have to learn that sometimes the one person who can help you the most is the one you never thought to ask.

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Brooke Lemon left home seven years ago and hasn’t been back. When her sister Mindy shows up on her doorstep in the midst of an emotional breakdown, will Brooke be able to help her sister?

I was entertained by the plot, and the author’s humorous writing style. I enjoyed the characters. I loved their liveliness and the realness of their personalities. The children’s antics were a joy to read. I enjoyed following the individual growth of Brooke and Mindy and I also relished seeing the sisters growing in their relationship and watching the bond strengthen between them.

I liked Mindy and I can understand and relate to her overload of having an absentee husband and three active little ones. The reader gets to see Mindy’s breakdown but we also get to see her pick herself back up. The character I liked least was Brooke. I didn’t understand why she stayed away so long and why she felt that she couldn’t share her secrets with her sister. Mindy has a kind heart and they grew up close so I didn’t understand why Brooke felt the need to leave Mindy in the dark during a time when she needed family and the love of her sister. Brooke begins to see that her sister isn’t perfect. Mindy is a woman that plans and organizes when Brooke is the type of person that freelances life. Both in their brokenness will they be able to piece back their relationship?

I enjoyed the relationship between Mindy and Linc. Linc stepped up to the plate and understood his wife’s cry for help and took action. For some reason I didn’t care much for Brooke and Garrett’s relationship. I wanted them to be together but the fact they couldn’t get past their personal hurdles because of themselves didn’t make for a good fit in the storyline. They weren’t happy apart but couldn’t see their way to be together. Readers will definitely feel the attraction of Brook to Garrett because it is mentioned several times throughout the book.

I was pleased with Garrett and his dad’s rebuilding a son/dad relationship. Garrett’s kind heart and forgiveness was touching. I liked Garrett. Because of his childhood he could have been bitter and unforgiving but this wasn’t his outcome.

Despite the few dislikes I did enjoy the mix of family, rebuilding relationships, revealing secrets and romance made this an overall good read that I would recommend.

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan


The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks/Harper Audio
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full length (464 pages/audio 9 hours 34 minutes)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

Zoe Maisey is a seventeen-year-old musical prodigy with a genius IQ. Three years ago, she was involved in a tragic incident that left three classmates dead. She served her time, and now her mother, Maria, is resolved to keep that devastating fact tucked far away from their new beginning, hiding the past even from her new husband and demanding Zoe do the same.

Tonight Zoe is giving a recital that Maria has been planning for months. It needs to be the performance of her life. But instead, by the end of the evening, Maria is dead.

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It’s not often you get a chance at a fresh start and that’s why Zoe Maisey is doing everything she can to be the perfect girl. She doesn’t want to be the one who destroys the second chance family after all. But what do you do when your past catches up to you?

Zoe was definitely my favorite character. She made a horrible mistake – one that cost three teens their lives – but she was young and I honestly think she was drugged or given alcohol she wasn’t aware of drinking. Despite all that, she really does feel guilty and has made solid efforts to become a better person. She knows that, even if she’s not at fault, she’s going to always be the first suspect due to her history.

The others didn’t make as much of an impression on me. Sam seemed to be a bit of an afterthought as he never really gets involved in Maria’s death. Tess isn’t too bad and I did like her more as we moved through the story, but she does make some questionable choices. Lucas’ relationship with Zoe is better than most step-siblings. You know he’s been through some tough things with how well he and Zoe get along, and it’s great that they had the support of the other in this. Chris bugged me from the very beginning, but I think a lot of that had to do with the way Maria was constantly micromanaging Zoe so that Chris wasn’t put out.

The idea of a second chance family – one where everyone gets a fresh start – is a good one. Maria and Zoe want to move past Zoe’s accident. Chris and Lucas want to move on from the death of Lucas’ mom. But what wasn’t great was Maria’s pushing Zoe to hide everything and maintain this ideal of the perfect family. Families aren’t perfect. Even the best ones are messy at times.

While I’m not generally a fan of novels told in the first person point of view, in an audiobook it seems to work better for me. Although, I did find myself talking back to the car stereo more often but I’m not sure if that’s because of the characters or the POV. The male narrator, Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, had a soothing, pleasant voice and the way he voiced both Sam and Lucas was enjoyable. The female narrator, Penelope Rawlins, however, did a much better job of making you think that there were two separate narrators. It actually took me several alternating points of view before I realized there was one person for both Zoe and her aunt, Tess.

The Perfect Girl is an engaging story full of hidden secrets and lies of omission. Although it has a bit of a slow start, once the author gets the ball rolling, it doesn’t stop until the end. The ending was a bit of a cliché, but for once, I fully agreed with its use. Seemed like the perfect way to end it, in my opinion. I’ll be anxious to check out other books by this author soon.