Review: The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller

Small town story lovers, meet Nora, of the Miss Guthrie Diner. Don’t mess with her customers or her sister. And when the cake lady dies, please don’t try to buy the land to turn it into a big box store. And if you do try such a thing, make sure you’re a good looking guy with a heart of gold and your eyes on a certain diner owner. But don’t be disappointed if she pays no mind… she has a sister to help, a dog to find, cake recipes to learn, and a town to support. And if her diner gets in trouble, well, be one of those people who saves the day. Nora would do it for you.

And definitely, definitely, read the book. There’s nowhere else you’ll get the sister’s boyfriend up to his eyebrows in maple icing, your precious home filled with your sister’s filmmaking equipment, addictive Girl Scout popcorn at the town meetings, and a zoning vote that threatens to divide the town (but come on, nothing can divide this small town). I loved every page.

-calliope

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Review: When We Found Home by Susan Mallery

Three lovely people grow up -separately- without loving parents, and though they don’t share the same mothers, they do share the same paternal grandfather. This guy might be in the background of the story character-development-wise, but he’s the hub that brings his three grandchildren together. Well, with a little help from a friend.

Susan Mallery wrote a terrific story about a non-traditional family. Malcolm was raised from boyhood by his grandfather. Keira was brought into the family home much later – and at the transitional age of 12 has a hard time feeling like she belongs. Delaney, a woman who works in the same building as Malcolm, helps bridge the brother-sister gap. Meanwhile, a third sibling is found and brought “home.” Callie isn’t sure this new world is for her, but feels a sense of responsibility for Keira.

I’ve read a lot of half-siblings-brought-together stories, but none quite like this. Mallery wrote fresh characters with realistic flaws and shortcomings, characters you can be annoyed with and cry with and laugh with… and sympathize with. And Mallery keeps up the realism all the way to the end, when everyone really has found home, even if it’s not what you’d expect. Terrific story about family, loyalty, and love.

-calliope

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Review: A Vicarage Wedding by Kate Hewitt

Kate Hewitt writes such realistic family relationships in this series focusing on four sisters who grew up in a vicarage. This third novel is about Rachel, the sister who wants a storybook life but never thought about the need for a strong foundation to build upon.

I like how no matter what emotional turmoil or complicated situation the sisters find themselves in, the other sisters are there to support them. Now, if you don’t have sisters, you might not recognize sisterly support. It’s not always soft words and hugs. Sometimes it’s a harsh truth (Esther!!!) and sometimes it’s just being there in the same room (Miriam!).

I also like that Hewitt writes in lovely male characters to (a) distract the sisters from their current problem, and (b) create new issues for them to figure out. And that’s certainly life for Rachel when her new job AND her new apartment come with broody but handsome Sam.

-calliope

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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: The Rules of Half by Jenna Patrick

Regret. I have so much regret that this book has been out for over a year now and I’ve just recently read it.

When Regan shows up in Half Moon Hollow, all she’s looking for is family. Still reeling from the recent suicide of her mom, she’s come to town in search of the dad she’s never met. Maybe he can be the one to give her the stability she’s never had. But Will is the last person anyone would think of in the same breath as the word stability. Grief over the death of his infant daughter combined with his bipolar disorder has made him the talk of the town. He’s known as the local crazy man, a role that he relishes. The appearance of Regan, however, makes him question his reputation. Can her love and support be enough to help him overcome his many obstacles?

From the very first page this book had me. It’s everything you’d want in a story. Family issues, romance, drama, a bit of mystery…it’s all there. The characters are likable when they’re supposed to be and vice versa. An outstanding debut novel!

~Thalia

Buy It Now: The Rules of Half

Review: Home on Huckleberry Hill by Jennifer Beckstrand

This book is part of the Matchmakers series (à la Plain grandparents who try to fix up their loved ones with the perfect matches) – yet it’s about a married couple. And I loved that. Even married couples need a little nudge together once in a while. Mary Anne and Jethro certainly did. After ignoring some big issues for long enough, Jethro spent most of his time fishing, and Mary Anne spent most of her time trying not to be a disappointment. When Mary Anne finally feels so low she relegates herself to camping out in the back field, Anna and Felty Helmuth do their thing.

I think this world needs more stories about struggling marriages — where the witnesses to the wedding step up and support strengthening the marriage. Though it was heartbreaking to see Mary Anne suffer, and disgusting how some of Jethro’s relatives treated her, I could see the hand of God every step of the way. When Jethro finally took a quiet moment to think things through, his love for Mary Anne shone brighter than anything else. Mary Anne had a few lessons to learn too – as did both extended families. Sometimes a little fresh air will do that!

-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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