Review: Need You Now by Emma Douglas 

Caleb White, tennis player extraordinaire, needs a distraction from his recent decision to retire. When he visits Cloud Bay he meets the perfect distraction — Faith. Faith runs a huge music festival, mostly because she’s the daughter of a famous (and deceased) rock star, but also because she’s really really good at it. 

I was hooked on Caleb and Faith, separately and together. But I wasn’t hooked on the music festival because music festivals just aren’t my bag. I kind of wished for more island-ish happenings – like catching rays, boat rides, and digging toes in the sand. But that’s just me. I have no idea how I thought this book was going to be about coastal living, but I was definitely wrong! I was right about one thing however – that Emma Douglas would give me a happily ever after.

So there’s rockers and romance… and family dynamics, a little bit of dysfunction, some nice architecture (hello million dollar coastal homes), and a good look at ambition, which I loved. If you also appreciate outdoor festivals, rock band life, and all things musical, this book is for you. 

-calliope

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Review: The Last Chance Matinee by Mariah Stewart 

I’m so glad I started this series! Allie and Des find out they have a half-sister… and the trio is required to cooperatively restore an old theatre in order to get their inheritance after their dad’s death. Restoring a theatre – what fun!

Watching the three characters learn about each other and grow in themselves was great. Steward develops the characters evenly, even though the story is told through Cara’s eyes. The introduction of Allie’s daughter shows Allie’s heart – at a point in the story I had just about had it up to here with her! And Stewart’s illustration of Des’s flair for fashion gives positive personality to this third sister – and adds another light, fun aspect to the story. 

I love how open Cara is to new friendships with her sisters and the small-town neighbors watching them restore the theatre. Reading the story from Cara’s viewpoint was an exercise in optimism, hopefulness and adventure. And as I sit here writing this, I’m thinking I really can’t wait for the next book … so I’m signing off and checking the internet for Book Two’s pub date. 🙂

-calliope 

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Review: On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

Kate and Ainsley are half sisters, but they feel worlds apart most of the time. Kate is reserved, classical, and practical. Ainsley is fashionable, whimsical and fun. But when they each find themselves alone after their respective romantic situations fall apart, their sisterly love shines through righteously. 

Some of this story just broke my heart, and I wasn’t sure I could get through the despair. Then I noticed I was only a quarter of the way through the book, leaving PLENTY of time for redemption, hugs, and gluing hearts back together. 

My most favorite part of this whole book, even more awesome than the sister love (which is pretty awesome, and a big part of the story), even snazzier than the Tiffany ring (big!), and even more heartwarming than the boss finding a soft spot in his heart for an employee (unexpected!), was Daniel the Hot Firefighter. Higgins masterfully wove him in as comic relief and a reliable pal, but he was so much more. Aside from his witty banter and alpha male-ism, Daniel the Hot Firefighter symbolized Hope… hope for a future when the present is bleak, hope for women looking for a good man, hope for children needing a father figure.

I kind of guessed where Daniel the Hot Firefighter would end up at the close of the story, and I was so glad that my guess only scratched the surface. Look for your Hot Firefighter, people. You never know when you’ll need to be rescued, and he will be there with a generous heart… and a smile. 

-calliope

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Review: The Perfect Homecoming by Julia London



This is the third book in the Pine River series… And my favorite. All three books deal with some heavy problems, but The Perfect Homecoming has a wonderful balance of sorrow, love, redemption, and humor. 

Emma left L.A. for the Pine River mountains to deal with the ranch her jerk of a father left to her and her two half-sisters. While the three sisters figured out how to get along, an old acquaintance of Emma’s turned up in Pine River. A really good-looking acquaintance. One Emma remembered sharing a few sparks with the first time they met at a Hollywood party. 

Although Cooper went to Pine River for work, he was able to break through Emma’s walls and start a relationship with her, as well as growing close with Emma’s friends and family. 

My favorite part of this book was how realistic Cooper’s confusion was when Emma acted a little crazy. The plot line with Emma’s friend Leo was beyond heartwarming. Family love, friend love, and romantic love all play big parts in this complex, beautifully written novel. And London tied them all together at the wedding at the end of the book.  

-calliope

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Review: In Your Dreams (Blue Heron) by Kristan Higgins

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Aaahhh, the Blue Heron series. Wine, good-looking vintners, smart and sassy women, and swoon-worthy heroes.

So Emmaline has a crush on Jack, but so does half the town. He married and quickly divorced a hot ticket from Savannah, saved four stupid teenagers from drowning, and offers his friendship to any of his sisters’ friends who need a convenient date to a wedding.

What I absolutely adore about Jack is that he’s pretty realistic. Higgins precisely got into the mind of a man … focused on his own stuff, not purposely being a jerk but obliviously doing so, aware of his charm and hotness — and willing to use it for his own benefit.

Emmaline proves to be one of the most awesome female protagonists in a romance. She’s great at her job, insecure with men, not a skinny-minny, loving to her sister, annoyed with her mother, and just trying to get through life unscathed any more than she already is. Very realistic. And she has a smart-mouth on her, that Emmaline.

Higgins writes Emmaline in that little place of insecurity – in love with a man but not willing to tell him because she knows it’s going to blow up in her face. And you know what, it does blow up in her face.

And then Jack saves the day. And they live happily ever after. Because that’s how the Blue Heron men roll.

–Calliope

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Review: Nest by Esther Ehrlich

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I generally don’t read children’s fiction, but I wanted to read Nest to get an idea of the usefulness of a book about children grieving. I can report with confidence this: I believe Nest would be helpful for 10-14 year olds with a mentally unstable or absent parent. They would see they are not alone, people grieve and cope in myriad ways, and anger is natural. Young readers could see that maintaining connections — family ties, friendships, or even looser relationships — help distract as well as move a person through his or her bucketful of emotions. Moving forward is key.

That’s my opinion as a mother and a former schoolteacher.

My emotional response to Nest was pretty much bawling my eyes out. A child without two loving parents just kills me… though I know it is so, so common. I felt for Chirp and her sister, for Chirp’s friends Dawn and Joey… Why did they have to suffer? Why did their lives have to be upended?

Yet they found ways to cope. They found ways to hope. They found ways to stick together to fill up a little bit of what was missing.

Nest is well-written, from the sentence structure to the easy flow to the authentic characters. The only niggling detail was about prayer: the author had Chirp uncomfortable saying grace before a meal, or saying the name Jesus. But I’m pretty sure Jewish people say grace (to G-d, not Jesus) and they believe Jesus existed, just that he wasn’t the Messiah. Besides that, Nest was wonderful. The 1970s were portrayed just as I remember them, without being contrived or hokey. And though the ending was sad, I finished the book with the thought that those children were going to make it. They had hope, they had strength, and they had each other.

-Calliope
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