Review: You Say It First by Susan Mallery

Happily Inc sounds like a pretty cute place to live – especially if you’re Pallas, the owner of a wedding planning company. Brides from all over go to Happy Inc to get married – and I bet some of them will want to stay. Even Nick the sculptor, son of a famous artist, walked into town, got a job, and felt the pull… or maybe it was the pull of Pallas and her love for her work. 

I liked Nick’s touchy family dynamics, especially because Mallery referenced Fool’s Gold characters I was familiar with. Pallas had some strong family interactions as well – that tends to happen with an overbearing mother and a strong willed daughter. 

In the end, everyone figured out what was best for themselves. For some, that meant some sacrifice. For others, it meant swallowing some pride. Either way, I got a view of real love in all its messy forms. 

-calliope

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Review (quick and dirty #5 FINALLY): Summer at the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard 

I’m all caught up! Here’s the fifth and final Friday night quick and dirty book review: 

I love this series set in the French countryside! Emmy is a wonderful Jane-of-all-trades at Rupert’s lovely inn, and there’s no shortage of chick-lit drama. “Interesting” guests, crazy ex-wives, and family secrets drive the plot forward fast and furiously. I like that Emmy is soft-hearted yet doesn’t stand for any nonsense… and the other characters appreciate that about her as well. What most impresses me is how Pollard writes about real life issues with lightness and whimsy. GUESTHOUSE is so fun that you don’t even realize you’ve read about divorce, grief, mortality, trauma, and tolerance. All you feel is love, laughter and friendship — which are balms for all of life’s messy parts. C’est bon. 

-calliope

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Review (quick and dirty #3): Secrets of the Tulip Sisters by Susan Mallery 

I was so happy to read this smart, fun, contemporary, relatable book about two very different sisters — the farmer and the fashionista. What’s underneath is what really matters, of course, but the ladies needed to find that out themselves. There were nosy gossips, nice guys who definitely didn’t finish last, big jerks who get sent on their merry way, and a couple of romances that made me sigh with giddiness. You’ll get all you bargained for and more in this novel with terrific dialogue and likeable characters. Reminded me of Jill Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor books. Excellent writing. 

-calliope

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Review: A French Wedding by Hannah Tunnicliffe 

Lovely story, but not what I expected. I thought, “A wedding! France! Cheese! Pastry!” And I got a wedding… but not until the very very end; France… well a part of France  caught very much in between England and France in language and culture; cheese… yes, but not everyone liked it; and pastry… oh the very best pastries and cakes made by chef Juliette. 

Juliette set aside her personal baggage to be Max’s personal chef. For Juliette, life was even easier that way. When Max invited a bunch of friends to stay at his home for the weekend, Juliette was ready to cook for them like a madwoman. But things went wrong at every turn due to the shadow Max’s mood cast. Whether he meant to or not, Max kind of ruined everything for his friends and his chef. And that kind of ruined the story for me. 
Good writing, good plot, depressing main character. 

-calliope 

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Review: The Salt House by Lisa Duffy

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Full of beauty and sorrow at the same time.  Heartbreaking but also uplifting.  A tale of despair yet also one of hope.  All of these things together make this an unforgettable story.

Hope and Jack have a great life.  They have three beautiful daughters, a nice home, a successful business.  Happiness.  But then tragedy strikes. And they are left with just two daughters.  Each family member copes, or doesn’t, in their own way.

A year later, they are at a standstill.  Time has put distance between them and their grief, but they haven’t really moved on.  Jack loses himself in his lobster fishing.  Hope loses herself in the memories of her lost daughter.  And the younger girls just go on being kids.

Everything comes to a head when a forgotten part of Jack’s past shows up at their door.  High school rivalries are reignited, this time with adult consequences.  Through it all Hope and Jack struggle to move past their grief and save their family.

Tragedies happen, families have to find ways to deal with them.   Told from alternating perspectives, this book takes us deep inside one family’s grief and their attempts to overcome it.  Each family member is dealing with their own struggles along with the collective struggle of the family.  It’s beautifully written, almost poetically so.  A story I won’t soon forget!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The Salt House

 

Review: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

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In spite of the wide range of tastes we Muses have in books, there have been several times two of us have read & reviewed the same book. But I do believe this may be the first threepeat.  And it’s one that’s well worthy of that distinction.

A nurse.  A new father. An up and coming attorney.  After the unexpected death of a newborn, their paths cross in a most unfortunate way.  Ruth has worked hard to get where she is, and as a much respected nurse she never expected to be on trial for murder.  But that’s just what happens when the white supremacist parents decide that she alone is responsible for the death of their baby.  Her only hope is Kennedy, a still wet-behind-the-ears public defender who has never defended a murder case.

If you’re interested in a story that just sticks to the plot outlined above, this is not the book for you.  But if you’re interested in something that goes deeper, to the very core of what we believe, then you’ll be pulled in from the very first page.  Whether you agree with the ideas presented by the author or not, it will no doubt make you question everything you believe.

Jodi Picoult never ceases to amaze me.  And she never shies away from controversial issues, taking them and weaving a story so compelling that you can’t put it down.  This one is no exception.  And as an aside, the Audible version of this one was outstanding with different narrators bringing the main characters to life for better or for worse.  A timely story from one of the best!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Small Great Things

Review: Blame by Nicole Trope

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Being a parent is not an easy job.  On the very best of days, children fill us with warmth and joy and hope for the future.  On the very worst of days, they make us wonder what ever made us think we could do the whole parenting thing.  And fair or not, mothers seem to carry an unfair share of the burden.  But still, we keep doing it because of the love.  What happens, though, when your child is not easily loved?  What does a mother do when you are blessed, or challenged, with a child so difficult that on most days you just barely get by?

Anna seemed to find Caro just when she needed her the most.  As the mother of a young child with autism, she finds herself sinking deeper and deeper into herself.  Then Caro reaches out to her, and a friendship is born.  Although they have daughters around the same age, their lives couldn’t be more different.  But their close bond withstands that.

Until the night that Maya is killed in a tragic accident.  Who is to blame?  Is it Caro, who was driving the vehicle?  Or is it Anna, who maybe wasn’t as vigilant as she knew she needed to be?  Their friendship is tested in ways they never thought possible as the truth is slowly unraveled.

I loved the style of this story.  The author alternates between Anna and Caro, narrating from the perspective of each.  Most of the story takes place as each is being interrogated by detectives.  We think we know who is at fault, and then we change our minds.  The author drags it out until almost the very end.  An excellent read!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Blame