Review: How to Keep a Secret by Sarah Morgan

Sisters Lauren and Jenna have been thick as thieves since their childhood when their mother was always painting and traveling — and their dad was more pal than caregiver.

Decades later, Jenna and Lauren still have each other’s backs as they (and next generation Mack) spend a summer together on Martha’s Vineyard — while mom Nancy tries to sell the childhood home.

I loved the secrets in this book! They weren’t too angsty or twisty… they were barely predictable… just enough to make the book easy and believable. And when they unraveled, I saw exactly why they were such long-held secrets. And I could understand why Mack wanted the truth from everyone from there on out!

Though I enjoyed all the characters – and Morgan developed them all well – I think Mack was a brilliant addition to the cast. As a teenager in a cast largely of adults, she often was by herself or feeling on the periphery of the action. But that was actually a stroke of genius – Mack was the observer of all that was happening, and clued me (the reader) in to the truth.

Besides Mack, I adored Lauren’s boat-builder ex boyfriend. He handled teenager drama like a champ, was the perfect gentleman helping Nancy in her time of need, and was honest as they come.

Way to go, Sarah Morgan. How to Keep a Secret is one of my 2018 favorites!

-calliope

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Review: California Summer by Anita Hughes

I love a good starting-over story. In California Summer, Rosie doesn’t have much of a choice. Her Hollywood life fell apart and she ended up in Montecito – uncertain of her future. But, a mother figure/ butler friend/ bff/ neighborhood guy later, and Rosie’s on her way back up. Question is, does she want to go back to the fast lane, or does she want to settle in to Montecito life with the ones she loves?

I loved every fish taco, every Estelle dinner party, and every rose garden chat. Anita Hughes rocked the luxuriousness, as usual, and threw in some pop stars and surfers for good measure. The plot twist was perfect – completely believable and not overdone – and endeared me to Rosie’s boyfriend even more.

The only shortcomings of this novel were that Rosie had two very annoying habits: 1- wearing the same red, full length cocktail dress randomly and to every gathering under the sun, whether it was appropriate or not, and 2- Rosie ran and hid like a toddler from any uncomfortable situation. I just wanted her to get a new dress and grow a set!

Apart from those two things, I liked all the characters, even spoiled Angelica and Hollywood agent Ryan. Hughes did a great job rounding out character development and writing someone for every reader to identify with. My favorite parts were meeting Esmerelda through Rosie’s eyes, and watching Rosie finally grow up.

-calliope

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Review: How Hard Can It Be by Allison Pearson

If you’re a woman over 40 — either working or going back to work after taking time off to raise children — you’ve got to read this. Actually, if you’re any woman you’ve got to read this. You’ll either identify with it because you’re just like Kate, or you’ll identify with Alice or Candy or Sally. If you’re a husband you should read it for its eye-opening characteristics. If you’re a single guy with a job, well, it might enlighten you too, man.

I’m just going to admit it. This is exactly what’s it’s like to be a 40ish woman going back to work after a decade off. Luckily I have a husband and colleagues who are a little more forgiving, but other than that, How Hard Can It Be is the cold unvarnished truth about raising teenagers, the pressures and interruptions of managing a home and extended family problems, the difficulty finding time to exercise, and the change of life that hits everyone with XY chromosomes.

It’s funny, authentic, heartbreaking. I furrowed my brow wondering how Kate could miss so many red flags with her kids, but in her defense, she had a LOT going on., And throughout every chapter I thought It is so nice to know I’m not the only one in this particular boat!

-calliope

P.S. This book reminded me of a couple of women in real life who are offering an online course for women wishing to re-enter the workforce after opting out to care for family. You can find details at Prepare To Launch U.

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Review: The Sugarhouse Blues by Mariah Stewart

Book two in a series, The Sugarhouse Blues continues the sister drama among Des, Cara and Allie, while filling in the family tree with their Aunt Barney and third generation Nikki.

Reading this is like watching a home renovation show on HGTV, the Real Housewives of Small Town America, and a Hallmark movie all rolled into one. You’ve got your historical theater renovation, the dwindling inheritance, a spitfire auntie, the cute-no-nonsense-friendly-yet-alpha sheriff, a boyfriend or three, and the sisters who love each other – most of the time – and have very little patience for each other’s antics. I love it all.

Read book one first so you’re not lost, then get a hold of this one, pronto. And then you can wait with me – watching Housewives and eating popcorn – until Ms. Stewart releases book three.

-calliope

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Review: The Family Gathering by Robyn Carr

The Family Gathering is book 3 in the Sullivan’s Crossing series, where I loved book 1, but had some reservations about book 2 (quirky wanderer gave me pause). I’m feeling the love again for this installment.

Dakota needs time to decompress after serving his country, so he visits his sister and brother in Sullivan’s Crossing. Besides building a relationship with his siblings and their families, Dakota starts to build a life in town (he sees it as temporary but come on now).

I very much enjoyed Carr’s customary secondary plot lines that reference past books but don’t depend on them. I also liked that she focused so much on family — because Dakota’s family totally had some issues to resolve! And of course the romance…. well, it’s obvious Sid would be a tough nut to crack. Question is, is Dakota the guy to do it…

As for my favorite part of most books: I won’t tell the hows and whys and wherefores, but after some work, Dakota and his family experience some pretty nice happily ever afters.

-calliope

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Review: The Summer Sail by Wendy Francis

Abby, Caroline, and Lee hop on a cruise ship with their guys and their kiddos… to celebrate a 20th wedding anniversary, share some personal news, await a proposal, and straighten out some of life’s twists and turns.

I loved the cruise ship setting. So fun! For an hour or two each night I was whisked away into the land of lounge chairs and umbrella drinks — and hot sunny days. Wendy Francis did a fantastic job making the friendships real and easy. The women were like sisters with each other – just how I’d imagine this trio in real life. And although some of the plot was predictable, Francis developed it in a fresh, engaging way. I was in it for the whole cruise: laughter, tears, and mouth agape. Nicely written, very entertaining!

-calliope

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Review: The Runaway Wife by Dee MacDonald

Oh Connie. Taken for granted by her husband and adult children — and not done a thing about it for years. Finally she and her little car set out find freedom on the open road, but of course they find so. much. more. I can’t really say all of what she finds because that would be giving away the good stuff, but let’s just say she has quite a few adventures and makes some new lovely friends who really appreciate her. Connie also meets up with some old friends who remind her how much they value her.

One big surprise is the ending. I don’t mean the ending ending, but like the last few chapters. I didn’t realize I was going to be reading such heartwarming stuff… but be forewarned and have a tissue ready.

Apart from a little morality misalignment (but that’s just me personally), I really just loved the entire book. Maybe because I sometimes feel taken for granted or ignored, like Connie did, I could truly relate. Or maybe because I’m feeling the itch for a good road trip, I was happy to live vicariously through Connie. And it could even be that I so loved this book because it provides a helpful perspective on seeing people and situations in a hopeful, positive light.

The end of the book mentioned a future sequel, so I’ve now added Dee MacDonald to my “regularly search for this author on NetGalley, Amazon and Overdrive” list.

-calliope

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