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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The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson

Miranda inherits a bookshop – and a whole slew of secrets. Fun and clever, The Bookshop contains many allusions to Shakespeare, a literary mystery, and a box of family treasures.

Problem was, I solved the mystery in the first couple chapters, and the Shakespearean quotes bogged me down after a while. I think a little more work ensuring the book flowed effortlessly (for the reader!) would have helped. Even though I really liked Miranda and the other bookshop staff, and I thought that Meyerson did a good job developing the friendships, the family relationships and the mystery itself all seemed a little contrived. All’s well that ends well, though, right?

(get it?)

-calliope

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Review: The Mum Who’d Had Enough by Fiona Gibson

Cute premise but really more of a story about two people struggling in their marriage. I don’t want to say too much, but the mum was fine with motherhood, she just wanted more responsibility to be shared by her hubby. Loved the teenager in the story – Gibson must have a teen of her own because she wrote terrific teen dialogue – natural and smooth.

The other characters were fine but maybe not as developed as they could have been – which would’ve been fine if I wasn’t searching for a good reason why the husband and wife weren’t getting along!

Gibson provided some good laughs and poignant moments in this quick read. However, I settled for an “okay for now” instead of a happily ever after. The story was perhaps a little too realistic for this fluff-romance addict, and may be better suited for a reader who is going through their own difficult relationship.

– 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: To the Moon and Back by Karen Kingsbury


There’s just something about books, that are based around real life tragedies, that suck me in. I read, and very much enjoyed, Karen’s 9/11 series. Being a wife of a public service employee, I find myself sucked into these types of stories very easily. When I saw that this was about the Oklahoma bombing, I knew the same thing would happen. And I was so right.

It’s been a while since a book pulled all these emotions from me. My eyes were wet more than they were dry. The feelings of loss and despair were so overwhelming, I was chocking on it. I know there is healing and comfort through faith, but while you’re in the midst of it, it’s sometimes hard to feel it.

There are two different stories happening here. One is about Amy. Not having read the first two Baxter books, I am unsure if her story played out in those, but in this book she is living with an aunt and uncle, since her parents and sisters were killed in a car accident. She may be 12 but she has this inner strength that makes me want to reach in and hug. She wants to get a sapling from the Survivor Tree, in honor of her being a survivor, and that basically sets the stage for the main story about Brady and Jenna.

Brady and Jenna were both children when their parents were killed in the bombing. Brady was in the building with his mom at the time, and he seems to be having a harder issue with letting God give him comfort. Jenna met Brady at the memorial when they were both 17. They had a connection of grief, but they never saw each other again.

But it only takes a moment to change the course of your life.

This book is about healing and finding hope, when yours is lost. It’s about holding on to those left behind. And it’s about having faith in someone stronger than yourself. Very powerful.

~Melpomene

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