Review: The Art of Us by Teri Wilson


Harper Higgins (what a great name!) is a reserved art history professor looking for tenure, until she literally bumps into soldier/dog-walker/artist Tom Stone and realizes she’s really looking for something more. 

Oooooh I just loved that Tom Stone. Talk about the perfect alpha … he’s an ex-soldier, doesn’t take crap from anyone, lives on a boat, doesn’t talk about his feelings but he HAS feelings, and shows his sensitive side when he’s supposed to. 

Harper is a pain in the neck who won’t get out of her head or out of her own way. But between her friends, her part time job teaching social art classes, and that handsome Tom Stone… well, Harper figures out a couple things that might do her some good. 

I liked the art discussions — I learned some fun facts! — as well as Frank’s flowers, the art classes (it’s a big thing where I live – go as a group to paint a picture while having a glass of wine), and the chemistry between Harper and Tom. The writing was fun and funny, even when addressing some serious issues. 

I even liked the villain, in that he tried to be tricky but really wasn’t smart enough to pull it off. As my teenager might say, “Oooh Lars, you just got burned.”

The Art of Us is totally entertaining on many levels… 

-calliope

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Review: House Revenge by Mike Lawson 


This was a pretty entertaining read. Though it’s the eleventh in a series, I had no trouble keeping track of characters and their occupations, good guys vs bad guys, and the relationships among them all.

House Revenge takes the reader through Boston politics, from commercial land development to dirty congressmen to cops on the take to connections with Mexican drug cartels, all through the eyes of Joe DeMarco. Joe is a right hand man taking direction from politicians, but trouble arises when he doesn’t think through his approach.  

In House Revenge, at the request of those more powerful than he, Joe tries to help an old lady stay in her apartment. Her building is getting torn down to make way for bigger and better – and more profitable – enterprises. Joe doesn’t intend to get too involved, but we all know where the path of good intentions leads. By the middle of the book, Joe is halfway there. 

I liked the peek into DC and Boston politics, the interactions with Boston Police, and the local references. Though some of Joe’s “solutions” seemed pretty far-fetched, I’ve got to give him credit for getting as far as he did in a world where one hand washes the other, and quid pro quo is the status quo.

-calliope 

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Review: Keeper’s Reach (Sharpe & Donovan) by Carla Neggers

  
Emma and Colin are at it again – solving crimes and saving lives – but this time they’re not really doing it together. Emma is supposed to be visiting the sisters at her old convent to get some closure before her wedding. But she gets drawn in to a dangerous situation when Colin’s brother Mike has some ex military contacts visiting. Colin vacillates between rushing in to save the day and keeping his emotions in check and doing a deliberate investigation first. 

I miss the banter Emma and Colin had in book 4 of this series (Read the review here), but I did like their display of trust and protectiveness for each other. Just like in book 4, I was a little confused with the numerous characters. They didn’t all come clear to me until the end, and by that time I think I missed something. 

I always enjoy a good FBI story, and Keeper’s Reach gets extra points for being set in New England and the Cotswalds. I also loved that Neggers continued the stories of art thief Oliver York and secondary character Father Finian. A possible rekindled romance for Mike and Naomi held my interest, too.  

I wish Neggers focused more on action — while maintaining the awesome descriptions of locale that she does so well — instead of describing characters. I get that the ex military pals were supposed to be central, but it’s hard to develop a bunch of new characters for one mystery in one book. 

I hope to see more Sharpe & Donovan capers in the future!

-calliope

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Review: Rainy Day Sisters by Kate Hewitt

  
Ohmygoodnessilovedthisbook. 

Lucy has been living in Boston – the same city as her überfeminist mother for the past two decades. With her egomania and focus on art, Fiona has managed to simultaneously  humiliate, neglect and drive away Lucy. So Lucy reaches out to her sister Juliet in the western Lake District of Cumbria, England. Juliet takes Lucy in, and there begins the roller coaster of estranged sisters, emotional numbness, putting on a happy front, and trying to find love in all the right places. 

Though it reads like chick lit, Rainy Day Sisters illustrates some heavy inner conflicts. Hewitt masterfully describes the mental anguish of the sisters and their love interests. Totally believable. Alex’s daughters were written well, also, from the sullen and reserved teenager to the perky and innocent primary-grader. Best of all were the townspeople of Hartley-by-the-Sea. They were quirky but not over the top. They developed authentically and I was just as interested in their stories as I was in Lucy, Juliet, Alex and Peter. 

I laughed and cried and sighed at the happily ever after… And then I ran to Amazon.com looking for the next one in the series. Which isn’t out yet. Because this one was just released. 🙂 But I was just so excited to hear more about the realistic, endearing, and lovely people in the HARTLEY-BY-THE-SEA. 

-calliope

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Review &VIDEO: Tiny Little Thing by Beatriz Williams

  
 

I love reading books set in a familiar locale, so when I saw that Tiny Little Thing was set in the Boston area and Cape Cod, I knew I had to read it. I grew up in southeastern Massachusetts and spent many a summer day on the family beaches at the Cape. 

Tiny, a well-bred dancer who marries a well-bred politician, finds herself unfulfilled and held back. She wants to escape, but is conflicted about appearing callous or selfish to her in-laws who have ostensibly given her the keys to fame and fortune. 

A niggling thought just won’t let go, though. Her in-laws are hiding something. As Tiny uncovers family secrets, she also peels away her fear of the unknown. With the help of those who truly love her, Tiny takes a leap out of the family’s political circus and into her own big life. 

So I didn’t love that this was set in the ’60s – I can’t relate – I wasn’t even born yet! And I hated that Tiny was portrayed as such a “victim” who needed to be saved. But I appreciated the redeeming values of her husband, and the gentle respect of the Captain. 

My favorite thing about this family saga/romance is that Williams explored Tiny’s relationship with her sister Pepper. While restoring an old car, they restored their sisterhood. Williams even brought their mother in full-circle at the end. I like that she tied up loose ends. 

And even though Tiny wasn’t exactly the best example of a strong woman who knows her mind, she was a good woman, rescued over and over by a good man, and that’s my kind of happily ever after. 
-calliope

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Review: Christmas at Carriage Hill by Carla Neggers

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I think 2014 was the first year I read anything by Carla Neggers, and I’ve become a fan. I was happy to see that Neggers wrote a Christmas novella, set in the part of Massachusetts where my mother grew up.

Christmas at Carriage Hill is a contemporary romance with an old-fashioned feel. There’s an impending wedding, New England snow, ice skating, English scones, and a military man who won’t let go of his true love.

Alex and Ian dated, broke up, then ran into each other while traveling abroad for a wedding. While the plot wasn’t thoroughly fleshed out and the secondary characters were a little flat, those are acceptable in a novella. I appreciated the great scenery, the main characters, the recipes, and the happily ever after. The power of nostalgia got to me, too, as I remember visiting the Quabbin as a child.

I enjoyed this light, uplifting, Christmassy novella by a favorite author… and it’s a steal at 99¢.

-calliope

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Review: Nest by Esther Ehrlich

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I generally don’t read children’s fiction, but I wanted to read Nest to get an idea of the usefulness of a book about children grieving. I can report with confidence this: I believe Nest would be helpful for 10-14 year olds with a mentally unstable or absent parent. They would see they are not alone, people grieve and cope in myriad ways, and anger is natural. Young readers could see that maintaining connections — family ties, friendships, or even looser relationships — help distract as well as move a person through his or her bucketful of emotions. Moving forward is key.

That’s my opinion as a mother and a former schoolteacher.

My emotional response to Nest was pretty much bawling my eyes out. A child without two loving parents just kills me… though I know it is so, so common. I felt for Chirp and her sister, for Chirp’s friends Dawn and Joey… Why did they have to suffer? Why did their lives have to be upended?

Yet they found ways to cope. They found ways to hope. They found ways to stick together to fill up a little bit of what was missing.

Nest is well-written, from the sentence structure to the easy flow to the authentic characters. The only niggling detail was about prayer: the author had Chirp uncomfortable saying grace before a meal, or saying the name Jesus. But I’m pretty sure Jewish people say grace (to G-d, not Jesus) and they believe Jesus existed, just that he wasn’t the Messiah. Besides that, Nest was wonderful. The 1970s were portrayed just as I remember them, without being contrived or hokey. And though the ending was sad, I finished the book with the thought that those children were going to make it. They had hope, they had strength, and they had each other.

-Calliope
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