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

Buy THE FAMILY GATHERING

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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

Buy THE SUMMER SAIL

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

Buy THE RUNAWAY WIFE

Review: 51 Weeks by Julia Meyerscough

As I settle in to my mid forties, I often think I should do some kind of challenge before I turn 50. I have one friend who collected library cards from the 50 United States. I know women who took all-girls vacations to tropical locales. And then there’s this book’s protagonist, who decided to do a different challenge each week for the year before she turned 50. The premise fascinated me and had my brain storming ideas from the beginning.

However.

Some of these challenges just left a bad taste in my mouth. I thought they’d be charming challenges, but they were sometimes crass, sometimes crossing moral boundaries, and sometimes just silly. Now, I realize Amy’s friends came up with the list, but even if a good friend of mine challenged me to cross a line that I don’t think a married woman should cross, well, I wouldn’t cross it. Amy didn’t have such scruples. (Maybe I’m a prude, I’ll admit it.)

Playing in the background throughout the novel is the soundtrack to a marriage on the rocks. It was just too much negativity for me when I instead expected a happy go lucky, positive tale of self-discovery.

If you don’t need all the loose ends tied up, and if you’re a little mellower than I am when it comes to following the rules, you’ll likely appreciate Amy’s fun journey, supported by her awesome friends.

-calliope

Buy 51 WEEKS

Review: The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman

This is a charming story about Samantha moving back home to small town Michigan from her temporary pastry chef stint in NYC. Though her big city boss was a total jerk, Samantha did leave behind good friends and big dreams.

She didn’t realize that her dreams could be fulfilled in Michigan if she’d only give it a chance. Back at her family’s orchard, Samantha spent time with her mom and grandmother, finding out little by little just how special the family recipe box was. I loved how her two worlds collided via the recipe box, giving Samantha the opportunity of a lifetime – if she decided to take it.

I loved the orchard setting, the convivial relationships among the women, persistent Angelo, and that awesome recipe box. I couldn’t quite identify with Samantha’s personal struggles, and the story was fairly predictable, but in the end I was satisfied — much like I am when hearing the expected crunch of an apple. All good stuff.

-calliope

Buy THE RECIPE BOX

Review: The First Kiss of Spring by Emily March

I’ve got to say, this wasn’t the Eternity Springs I was expecting! I thought I’d be reading light and sweet but what I read was dark and heavy.

While I liked the present day Josh character very much, his past was pretty dark, and that cast a shadow over much of the plot. His moodiness was understandable but just a little depressing for Eternity Springs.

I expected Caitlin to be the predictable small town girl/breath of fresh air, yet her character development was a little uneven: she’s still a young woman without a family of her own, yet she leaves her big city job to become a day care worker. She wants to be out of her parents’ clutches, yet she is just as judgmental as they are.

This book was well written and had cameos of characters from prior books. I loved Celeste’s hand in making sure everyone lives out their best life. Despite being thrown off by these two particular characters, I did — as usual — enjoy all the magic Eternity Springs offers.

If you’ve been reading the Eternity Springs series and wishing the next book would be more serious, a little gritty, and spicier than the previous books – Emily March has written this one for you. 🙂

-calliope

Buy THE FIRST KISS OF SPRING

Review: Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

Sylvie and Dan try to spice up their marriage when it hits them that they have decades more of life together. In the midst of Dan working longer hours, Sylvie trying to save her employer from closing shop, and Sylvie still grieving for her late father, spicing up a marriage seems to be a tall order.

Kinsella brings to the forefront quirky characters (and I didn’t always understand their motivations until a scene was laid out for me, truth be told), family secrets, and the myriad ways people love each other. Cute, fun rom-com that was light on character development but full of charm.

-calliope

But SURPRISE ME