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: 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 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

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Review: Come Home to Me by Liz Talley

Protagonist Summer comes home to more than just one “me” in this romantic women’s fiction by Liz Talley. She comes full circle with herself after being kind of a martyr for a while, and she has some loose ends to tie up regarding an old flame and an old grudge.

I liked the realistic aspect of this book. When there was a problem, Talley showed how it affected everyone. And when there were successes, those were shared too. Come Home to Me discusses some social issues that bounce along a journey of love. The happily ever after was too neat of closure for me- I liked the ending per se, but it didn’t seem to naturally follow all the real life problems that happened throughout out the book. However, I’m always a sucker for forgiveness and reconciliation – definitely present when Summer finally is able to honestly face those two significant men from her past.

-calliope

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Review: In Sight of Stars by Gae Polisner

Books about teens with mental illness are hit or miss for me. Usually not very good and full of cliches, but every now and then a true keeper comes along. This latest tale from Gae Polisner is definitely one of the latter.

Klee’s had a lot to deal with in his young life. Not only did his dad kill himself, but Klee was the one to find him afterwards. His mom, hoping for a fresh start, uproots them from his beloved New York City. He doesn’t really fit in at his new school and basically resigns himself to just getting by until he graduates and can begin a new life.

But then he meets Sarah. And everything changes. She becomes his reason for being. She’s his polar opposite. And he can’t imagine his life without her. Sarah, however, isn’t as commital. Eventually it all becomes too much for Klee and he makes a desperate attempt to end the pain he’s feeling.

This author does an outstanding job of taking us inside Klee’s head, imagining what he must be thinking and feeling. So much trauma at such a young age…leading up to the incident and his recovery period afterwards.

A word of warning: Although this one is classified as young adult, I’d suggest it for the older end of the spectrum. The message is important but it’s pretty sexually descriptive. An insightful story!

~Thalia

Buy It Now: In Sight of Stars

Review: Chalk Houses by Tracy Clark

Most kids want to grow up to be just like their parents. From a very young age, they emulate everything their parents do. Imagine, though, a childhood so sad and traumatic that it leaves you reaching for the exact opposite goal.

Talon has had a rough childhood, to put it mildly. A revolving door of men in her mother’s life has left her scarred in more ways than one. More often than not, Talon has found herself in the role of the parent as drugs and alcohol ruled every aspect of her mother’s life. Now she has a chance to make something of her life. Her love of writing has given her the opportunity to leave her horrid life behind and to actually become something.

But Talon, desperate for approval and love and acceptance and all those other things, finds herself making the same mistakes as her mother. Will she see the error of her ways before it’s too late? And is there any way she and her mom can find their way back to each other?

Lots going on in this story. Typical teen issues, sure. But also some things that no teen should ever experience. Sadly, we all know that Talon’s experiences are all too real. This was a compelling story, one that I really want to end in a happily ever after. But as in life, that’s rarely the case…

~Thalia

Buy It Now: Chalk Houses