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: Home on Huckleberry Hill by Jennifer Beckstrand

This book is part of the Matchmakers series (à la Plain grandparents who try to fix up their loved ones with the perfect matches) – yet it’s about a married couple. And I loved that. Even married couples need a little nudge together once in a while. Mary Anne and Jethro certainly did. After ignoring some big issues for long enough, Jethro spent most of his time fishing, and Mary Anne spent most of her time trying not to be a disappointment. When Mary Anne finally feels so low she relegates herself to camping out in the back field, Anna and Felty Helmuth do their thing.

I think this world needs more stories about struggling marriages — where the witnesses to the wedding step up and support strengthening the marriage. Though it was heartbreaking to see Mary Anne suffer, and disgusting how some of Jethro’s relatives treated her, I could see the hand of God every step of the way. When Jethro finally took a quiet moment to think things through, his love for Mary Anne shone brighter than anything else. Mary Anne had a few lessons to learn too – as did both extended families. Sometimes a little fresh air will do that!

-calliope

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Review: This Could Change Everything by Jill Mansell

Oh Essie…. if you’re going to write a brutally honest letter, do it on paper so you can burn it. Don’t ever, ever write it online. These things have a way of going viral.

Essie found out pretty quickly that nothing good could come of writing an email that she didn’t mean to send. That one email was the impetus for moving out of her apartment, meeting Zillah and cohorts, getting a new boss (much better than her ex’s mother!) and learning to make her own life before latching on to someone new.

I liked this book – especially Essie’s new friendships with Zillah and Lucas, her new apartment, and the way she finally realized that breaking up with her boyfriend was the best thing ever.

Great book to read when you’ve made a mistake you’re feeling horrible about… just goes to show that everyone can make a comeback!

-calliope

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Review: California Summer by Anita Hughes

I love a good starting-over story. In California Summer, Rosie doesn’t have much of a choice. Her Hollywood life fell apart and she ended up in Montecito – uncertain of her future. But, a mother figure/ butler friend/ bff/ neighborhood guy later, and Rosie’s on her way back up. Question is, does she want to go back to the fast lane, or does she want to settle in to Montecito life with the ones she loves?

I loved every fish taco, every Estelle dinner party, and every rose garden chat. Anita Hughes rocked the luxuriousness, as usual, and threw in some pop stars and surfers for good measure. The plot twist was perfect – completely believable and not overdone – and endeared me to Rosie’s boyfriend even more.

The only shortcomings of this novel were that Rosie had two very annoying habits: 1- wearing the same red, full length cocktail dress randomly and to every gathering under the sun, whether it was appropriate or not, and 2- Rosie ran and hid like a toddler from any uncomfortable situation. I just wanted her to get a new dress and grow a set!

Apart from those two things, I liked all the characters, even spoiled Angelica and Hollywood agent Ryan. Hughes did a great job rounding out character development and writing someone for every reader to identify with. My favorite parts were meeting Esmerelda through Rosie’s eyes, and watching Rosie finally grow up.

-calliope

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Review: Ain’t She a Peach by Molly Harper

Southern charm has a bit of a different meaning in Molly Harper’s Southern Eclectic series. I loved Sweet Tea and Sympathy for the big hug that city-girl-Margot’s extended family gave her when she arrived at their doorstep looking for a shoulder… and a job. In Ain’t She a Peach, Harper fleshes out the character of Margot’s goth cousin Frankie, a born and bred southern woman of many talents (including excellent makeup skills).

I really enjoyed getting to know Frankie. She is more than just silly clothes and rainbow hair and slitty eyes at the teenage troublemakers. Frankie is a pop-tart-lovin, jail-sleepin, cancer-survivin, Aunt-Tootie-toleratin lovable 30-something with a stubborn streak and a coroner’s license. With a nudge from Margot and company, Frankie learns how to speak up for herself, catch a crook, and finally let her guard down when it comes to love.

This book is funny, heartwarming, and filled with puppies. And okay yes, I also really liked that Sheriff Eric was part of the happily ever after. ❤

-calliope

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If you’d like to read book one first, here’s my review and a link … SWEET TEA AND SYMPATHY

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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