The Sugarhouse Blues (by Mariah Stewart)…life, love, relationships, and conflict

This second book in the Sugarhouse series was good. I found myself flipping through the pages, anxious to see more into the lives of the Hudson sisters. This book is more from the viewpoint of Des, so you get a little different aspect (the first book was more from Cara’s viewpoint).

You continue to fall in love with the town and people of Hidden Falls. The continuing renovations of the Sugarhouse Theater gives you an inside view of the people involved in the creation of the theater as well as the Hudson family history. Allie, Des, and Cara are developing a relationship and growing closer. And the author does a great job of bringing you into their lives and discovering their faults, failures, and positive attributes.

I am looking forward to continuing the adventure and learn more about Allie and how she resolves the conflicts with the people in her life. I would encourage all lovers of books to begin a journey with the Hudson sisters and the life and times of Hidden Falls.

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Way of Beauty (by Camille di Maio)…a tale of suffering, conviction, goals, love, loss, and integrity

This was a delightful book. I really enjoyed the history and the connecting lives of the characters. This was a tale of suffering, conviction, goals, love, loss, and integrity. I loved how the story began in the 1960s and then went back to the beginning of the lives involved in this tale. The characters were well developed and you find yourself drawn into their story, cheering and crying, cringing and gasping, falling in love and questioning some of the decisions made. But no matter what your stance, you will LOVE this book!

I found myself looking up various facts stated throughout the book to find out if they were true or not (they always were!). The author did her homework and made this historical story interesting. I learned a lot about the history of the suffragettes, of the sandhogs and building of the tunnels for train travel, and the world in New York during World War I and II.

I loved this story so much that I’ve purchased all of the author’s books. That’s a high statement of praise!

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange of for an honest review.

Detective Cross (by James Patterson)…action but lightweight read

This was a nice short read in the Alex Cross series. This was the first Bookshots I’ve read…and will probably be the last! (Other than the one other book I had already purchased.) While it was action packed and kept you interested, it wasn’t worth the money.

Once again, Alex Cross finds himself in the middle of a mystery and has been called in as a consultant on his wife’s bombing case. There is lots of action and intrigue. But, I have to honest, I am falling out of love with James Patterson books. They are just too similar and not that well written.

The Last Chance Matinee (by Mariah Stewart)…hidden secrets in Hidden Falls (life with the Hudson sisters)

This was a great story. I loved the characters, their individual personalities, how they got (or didn’t) along with each other. The premise for this story was interesting and really starts the book off with a bang.

I enjoyed the little glimpse into each of the main characters’ lives in the prologue. You learn a little about each sister and what they are each dealing with and how they are responding to the situations. You will find yourself loving some of the characters and being really irritated with other(s)…at least that’s the way I felt.

Mariah Stewart is one of my favorite authors and this first book in the series has you wanting to return to Hidden Falls and follow the Hudson sisters to discover what adventures await. Can’t wait to read the second book!

The author does a great job of making you want to move to Hidden Falls and settle into life with the people of this delightful town. I want Barney as my aunt. I think she would be a hoot to spend time with!

The Optometrist’s Guide to Letting Go (by Amy Reichert)…a story of life, family relationships, acceptance, love, and loss

Wow! This book was a wonderful read. I found myself flipping through the pages and enjoying the story of Gina. No matter what Gina experienced, she tried to find the positive side of things. If we could all do that, I think the world would be a better place.

But when a medical emergency unleashes a hidden secret, Gina and her sister have to come to grips with a shocking discovery. However, at the same time, Gina and daughter have to learn how to connect with each other and share the love they each feel for the husband and father they both loved.

Such a poignant story of life, family relationships, acceptance, love, and loss. The way each character deals with their individual crises reflects the type of personality they possess and yet they are influenced by the relationships and dynamics of their family.

I really enjoyed this book and will make sure to read more by this author.

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for a honest opinion.

The Marmalade Murders (by Elizabeth Duncan)…sticky situations are abound in this delightful cozy mystery

This was a delightful cozy mystery. I loved the language and phrasing…especially since I’m an American. It was fun to “hear” them speak with unique words and phrases.

The characters were quirky and well developed. I loved the relationships between the various individuals. There were friendly interactions as well as some catty, ugly ones. But they were all interesting and helped lay the foundation for who committed murder.

I would definitely read another book by this author. It was a light and interesting read.

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.

The Ones We Choose (by Julie Clark)…life-changing decisions and how many can be affected

I loved this book. From the story itself to the genetic tidbits at the beginning of each chapter, you are drawn into the lives of the characters. Paige and her son, Miles; the family relationships; their friends, Jackie, her husband, Aaron, and her son, Nick…they weave a story that has you waiting anxiously to find out what secrets will be revealed. Lots of love, loss, anxiety, secrets, hurt, and scars are the threads that make up the lives of the characters.

The author does a fabulous job of developing the characters and making you care about what happens to each of them. You’ll cheer, you’ll cry, you’ll be angry. You don’t understand why people make the choices they do. But you want to hang in there until the last page is turned and discover if there is healing in the mess of their lives.

The concept of sperm donors is not new, but this story does a wonderful job of making you take a different look at the positive and negative aspects of choosing to bring a child into the world via artificial insemination. It was a good view and really made me think outside the box.

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. Julie Clark does a great job in this debut novel. I look forward to more adventures with her on the written page.

Hurricane Season (by Laura Denton)…a storm is brewing in their lives as well as off the coast of Alabama

This story touched me a little more than most books. As someone who suffered with infertility, Betsy’s struggles were very real to me. And then to have a sister who had two children without trying to was another nail in the coffin of my emotions. My sister had three children…getting pregnant with two of them while I was trying to get pregnant the first time.

The author does a wonderful job of exploring the emotions both sisters experience, factoring in life growing up with parents who weren’t really involved in their lives (very self centered), as well as their present day lives.

This story was a storm of epic proportions…having you ache for Betsy and Ty, wondering where Jenna would end up, falling in love with the two precious children Jenna leaves with her sister for what turns into longer than a two-week retreat. There are so many analogies from the intensity of the storm related to raging emotions, growth of the garden Betsy plants related to how she and Ty grow in their relationship, etc. This book is a wonderful example of relationships and enduring the storms of life.

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I love Laura Denton’s books and this one was another moving tale I have enjoyed.

Blood Sisters (by Melody Carlson)…how racism and bigotry can corrupt society (but hope does abound!)

This was a painful book to read. The focus on racial prejudices and intense bigotry was hard to digest. The story, though, was well written. The characters were well developed and dug themselves deeply into your heart. You suffer along with the “blood sisters” and find yourself feeling extreme sadness for all they endure.

The atrocities of racism and prejudices is astounding. But I am aware that these ideals still exist today and it is hard to know that there are people who believe this way. It breaks my heart to think a person is judged based on the color of his/her skin or their religious beliefs or their sexual preferences.

While the subject matter was difficult to endure, the fact that there are individuals who believe that we are all God’s children and are willing to take a stand against such horrible beliefs is uplifting. It was difficult to suffer through the viewpoints espoused by some of the characters. But knowing that others were working behind the scenes to change the climate in Cedar Crest kept you hoping and praying! And prayers were a big theme throughout this book. Small and simple…or childlike…the prayers lifted were an important part of traveling through this difficult environment.

I am so pleased that this book was chosen as our book club book this month.

The Hotel on Shadow Lake (by Daniela Tully)…the shadow is more than just a reflection on the lake but a reflection of the horrors of the Nazi regime and murder

I really enjoyed this book. While the story goes back and forth from the past to the present, it is clear which time period in which you are currently involved. The story has some great twists and turns. The characters are well developed and you will find that you love some while despise others. Lots of personalities involved which makes for a great contrast!

I realize this was an ARC, but the fact that you simply jumped from one thought to another within a chapter without breaks (an extra space between the end of the paragraph in a previous moment to the beginning paragraph of another) made it somewhat confusing. Hopefully with the final copy you can tell that a new moment is beginning…even though it is within the same chapter.

I liked that the chapters were headed with the person’s name who would be the main focus. This helped you know whether you were in the present or the past.

I have developed an insatiable appetite for all things WWII…learning all that I can about what happened during the Holocaust and the Nazi regime. I think it’s important that we learn what we can so that these horrible events do not occur again during our lifetime. This book focused on just a portion of that time period. It wasn’t necessarily the main focus, but became part of the story line that kept you interested and wanting to know what happened to Martha and Hans.

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.