Review: Written on My Heart by Morgan Callan Rogers

 
I loved this book about young newlyweds struggling to prioritize their marriage, children, employment, roots, and friendships. Dottie and Florine have a close, sisterly relationship based on honesty and support. Bud and Glen base theirs more on beer than honesty, and Morgan Callan Rogers outstandingly illustrates their desire to balance machismo and independence with responsibility and growth. I enjoyed seeing the men develop and regress, and then finally take the steps forward to become better men. 

The women change, too.  Through the grace and lovingkindness of her mother in law, Florine discovers the best way to demonstrate love to Bud… without compromising her values. Dottie grows in confidence and is able to be her authentic self — and a happier person. 

I adored this study on the ebb and flow of relationships, set in “local” down Maine. I liked the intertwined mystery, the ever-presence of Florine’s late mother, and the constance of children’s joy and a mother’s wisdom. 

-calliope

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Review: Christmas at Evergreen Inn by Donna Alward

   

What a well-written Christmas novella! I enjoyed this story even more than my last few Christmas reads, because the characters’ behaviors were consistent, the dialogue was realistic, and the tension was so real I felt my own shoulders tightening up. Alward impressed me with a tightly written plot and just the right balance of sweet versus strong. Most importantly, Evergreen Inn was Christmassy. The hot chocolate, tree ornaments, and snowstorms helped Todd heal Lainey’s broken heart, and certainly warmed mine. 

-calliope

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Review: Keeper’s Reach (Sharpe & Donovan) by Carla Neggers

  
Emma and Colin are at it again – solving crimes and saving lives – but this time they’re not really doing it together. Emma is supposed to be visiting the sisters at her old convent to get some closure before her wedding. But she gets drawn in to a dangerous situation when Colin’s brother Mike has some ex military contacts visiting. Colin vacillates between rushing in to save the day and keeping his emotions in check and doing a deliberate investigation first. 

I miss the banter Emma and Colin had in book 4 of this series (Read the review here), but I did like their display of trust and protectiveness for each other. Just like in book 4, I was a little confused with the numerous characters. They didn’t all come clear to me until the end, and by that time I think I missed something. 

I always enjoy a good FBI story, and Keeper’s Reach gets extra points for being set in New England and the Cotswalds. I also loved that Neggers continued the stories of art thief Oliver York and secondary character Father Finian. A possible rekindled romance for Mike and Naomi held my interest, too.  

I wish Neggers focused more on action — while maintaining the awesome descriptions of locale that she does so well — instead of describing characters. I get that the ex military pals were supposed to be central, but it’s hard to develop a bunch of new characters for one mystery in one book. 

I hope to see more Sharpe & Donovan capers in the future!

-calliope

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Review: The Summer of Good Intentions by Wendy Francis

  
Here we go! Another summertime novel set on Cape Cod. I AM LOVING these beach reads. 

In The Summer of Good Intentions, the three Herington sisters and their families spend a few weeks at their beach house on the Cape. They don’t anticipate that the gradual changes that have been happening in the past year will all come to a head right there at the beach. 

I liked these women and their families – but surprisingly I liked their spouses even more. Francis wrote sympathetic but realistic male characters, which is refreshing in a world of literary men that are either too perfect, too cynical, brutish, or just plain silly. 

There are some sad parts of this book. There’s a hint at Alzheimer’s, a house fire, the diagnosis of a chronic and incurable disease, and a death. But there’s also beautiful reconciliation of a marriage, a promising new romance, and a children’s unrivaled gift to their mother. 

-calliope

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Review: The Barefoot Sisters Southbound (Adventures on the Appalachian Trail) by Lucy Letcher and Susan Letcher

IMG_1481.JPGIf you’re a hiker or a camper or an outdoor nature lover, you’ll love this book. And even if you’re not (I’m not, really), reading Southbound lets you experience eight months of hiking without *actually* hiking. Which is kinda cool too.

I bought this book for my kindle in November 2011. Three years ago! It got buried under my virtual TBR pile until last week when my friend Maureen said she was going to dig it out of her own TBR pile and start reading it.

The beginning was a little rough reading for me: descriptions of mountains and hills and trails and supplies… Chapter after chapter… Repetitive.

Then about a third in, I mentally hopped on the trail with the sisters, and really felt like I was there. The brutal, bone-numbing cold, meeting up with the Family from the North, rank hiker smell, mountaintops pushing through the fog, and cold streams of water… I could feel it and taste it all.

Southbound is written beautifully, with rich vocabulary, unapologetic candor, and authenticity. I appreciate the gradual piecing together of the journey, the landscape, the relationships. Slow and piecemeal is how real life happens sometimes. The “summit” at the end is much, much less than the sum of its big, glorious, painful, joyful parts.

The sisters yo-yo’d and wrote a book about their trip back northbound. I’ll be reading that next.

-calliope

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buy THE BAREFOOT SISTERS WALKING HOME
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Review: The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly

thewolfinwinterOkay….so I should probably start this review by confessing that although this is the twelfth book in the Charlie Parker series, it is actually my very first time reading John Connolly.

However, that doesn’t mean I felt lost….it doesn’t mean that I believe I could have liked this book any more…it was simply put…brilliant. I was torn between wanting to rush on and finish this one or slinging it aside and starting at book one….It’s a new series that I am EXCITED to read more of. This is at a time where I have been in a major book slump and nothing could hold my attention.

Here we have infamous Charlie Parker….a former NYC police officer turned private investigator. As with all great protagonist, Parker has personal tragedies that have shaped him into the man he is today. There are many people that love him….and many that would like to see him dead….but few are brave enough to try it themselves…He has a reputation that proceeds him and many that have battled against him do much to stay clear of him today….

This is borderline paranormal. No….maybe I shouldn’t say borderline. It is paranormal. But it doesn’t read like it. It seems very real. This book isn’t written to provide escapism into another universe….It’s made to have you question those things around you….to look closer at things around you….

What I especial liked about this book is that there is little doubt that there are many ongoing story-lines involved. Yes, I read this as a stand alone. No, I did not feel lost. Yes, the focus was on THIS storyline….however, you were surrounded by several other ongoing story-lines as well…there were hints and glimpses galore..and I am excited to go back and get started on this series and find out what they are all about!

I also loved what Connolly has done with the many characters. Again, it’s obvious that they have played major parts in previous novels. In this novel they might not be very dominant, but they are there to remind you that they exist. There are there to remind you that they will become more involved one day in a future story. They are much like an old friend (or disliked co-worker) that you meet on a crowded street….you’re in a hurry…you only have a moment to say hi….but you promise to meet up soon and really discuss life…..and you mean it!

So often, authors of longer series feel the need to start and end a storyline in every book….maybe dragging it out for a second book to wrap up…..so often they think that each character must play a dominate, visible part in each novel….or somehow just mysteriously be vacant in the novel…..Connolly didn’t do this….and it makes me excited to read the rest of these novels….

He is an author I have always wanted to read….I pictured for some reason a John Saul type of author….I’m not sure who to compare John Connolly to now….no….I take that back….there is no comparison. He is original. He is worthy of all the praise I’ve heard about him. He deserves to be a household name. You deserve to treat yourself to this series….

I’m feeling some serious author love right now….just saying….

Until next time….

Urania xx

ARC provided by Edelweiss for an honest review

Buy it now The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly

Review: Love a Little Sideways by Shannon Stacey

20131227-135257.jpg Seems to be a theme of strong, anti-commitment female protagonists and marriage-minded heroes these days. It’s a nice break from the traditional, and it makes for fun girls’ nights and sweet men pining for their women.

Drew and Liz were family friends back in the day, mostly because Drew was best friends with Liz’s brother Mitch. And they hooked up at Mitch’s wedding 8 months ago, which is being held as Top Secret, lest Mitch beat the pulp out of Drew. Then Liz went back to her life in New Mexico.

When Liz returns to her childhood home in Maine, she and Drew have to face the music – and each other. They have plenty of chemistry but no common goals for the future. A family camping trip forces them to make decisions about their relationship.

I liked the family atmosphere in Love a Little Sideways. On the camping trip, there were ATV rides, swimming pool games of doom, family meals, campfires, wild children, and new babies with their mamas. It reminded me of the family reunions I’ve been to in the summer, where the mothers make sure the kids are safe and the fathers make sure the kids have fun… and are worn out for bedtime! I had a ball with the Kowalskis, and totally understood how grateful Liz was to be back with her family.

Liz and Drew had obvious chemistry, and they cared for each other. I enjoyed watching them navigate their relationship, trying to find a place that fit each of their goals. The journey of this romance was super fun. The ending was romantic, but a little bit silly in light of Liz’s stance on marriage and babies throughout the story. All in all, Love a Little Sideways is a cleverly-written, upbeat romance with a lot of family fun.

Just a little aside: I have a thing for cops, so it was fun to read Drew as a young-ish police chief hero. But please note, no police officer would lie down to watch fireworks while in uniform, much less with his gun belt on! That scene made me giggle, trying to picture my favorite cop doing the same. 🙂

–Calliope

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